Here are some of my go-to food and drink choices that maximize nutrients for our bodies and our teeth. They all offer benefits to build healthier teeth and gums, prevent tooth decay and fight infection by neutralizing harmful acids, providing vitamins and minerals for tooth enamel and stimulating saliva production.
Things like breads, citrus, sugary sweets produce acid-causing tooth decay. Eating cheese, which is high in calcium, raises the pH level in our mouths and can counteract that acid erosion.
- Fatty Fish
My personal favorite, salmon, contains plenty of vitamin D which helps the teeth, gums and body absorb much-needed calcium.
- High Fiber Vegetables and Fruit
The fiber in vegetables and fruit acts like tiny scrub brushes and promotes saliva production, discouraging plaque buildup. Vegetables and fruits also have a high water content which aids in hydration.
While not a food by itself, xylitol is a sweetener found in sugarless gum that fights tooth decay by killing bad bacteria. Chewing gum increases saliva which prevents both tooth decay and bad breath.
- Green Tea
Admittedly I do not drink tea much, because I favor coffee. Green tea, however, contains polyphenol antioxidants which interact with and kill plaque-forming bacteria. Those bad bacteria feed on the sugars in your mouth, but the polyphenols in the tea prevent the forming of acids from those bacteria that destroy tooth enamel.
- Leafy Greens
Another personal favorite of mine that I eat daily. Kale, spinach, romaine for example contain folic acid and again, the calcium. Folic acid purportedly helps with gum disease.
Almonds are an excellent source of calcium, vitamin E, magnesium and fiber. Vitamin E is said to help reduce gum pain and inflammation.
Preferably whole-fat Greek yogurt. The good bacteria from probiotics are not only excellent for your digestive tract, but they also protect your mouth against gum disease by countering the bad bacteria. Yogurt is another great source of calcium.
According to the American Dental Association, oral health is one of the first clear areas affected by a poor diet. Sugars cause cavities, tooth decay and gut inflammation, in addition to harming overall immune system. You can start by making small changes that add up. By making better choices we can improve our oral and overall health and encourage our bodies to heal naturally.
The last of the baby teeth are not usually lost until around age 11, although by then many children stop believing in the tooth fairy long before. Often it is kids at school or older siblings that ruin it for the younger ones. Children (like my granddaughter) will happily play along just to collect a little money for their teeth. A recent patient asked me if I knew where the myth of the tooth fairy began and because I did not have an answer I did some digging. There are differing accounts as for the very first, but many cultures have stories.
In the Middle Ages it was believed a witch could place a curse on someone with the use of their teeth, so they had to get rid of them by swallowing, burying or burning. Sometimes they were left for rodents or crows who reportedly had strong teeth. People thought a tooth fed to a rodent or crow could then lead to development of a good and strong adult tooth.
In 18th century France, the tooth fairy myth took on more fairytale features. A bedtime story, La Bonne Petite Souris, tells the tale of a mouse that turns out to be a fairy and helps a good queen imprisoned by an evil king. The mouse hides under the evil king’s pillow and defeats him by knocking out his teeth.
The idea of leaving the teeth under the pillow in exchange for money may have originated in Scandinavia. The Vikings paid children coins for a lost tooth. The teeth were then made into necklaces and worn as good luck charms in battle. You can just picture an image of a fierce Viking in a horned helmet taking the teeth of children.
The more delicate description of a fairy came later, as recent as the 1900’s. When WWII ended, American society became more prosperous, families became more focused on children and the tooth fairy idea gained popularity.
Many legends of the tooth fairy have been passed down throughout generations and cultures.
Dental implants restore a lost tooth and function just like a natural tooth. I have talked before about dental implants as far as the safety, the benefits and whether they are right for you and you can find more of that information on our website. I want to specifically address how you can ensure the longevity of dental implants. They are strong and stable and, in fact, the next best thing to natural teeth. Dental implants are designed to last and can last a lifetime if they are properly placed and cared for. There aren’t any uncomfortable or embarrassing moments of them loosening or falling out while talking, eating or laughing like with removable dentures.Dental implants allow ease and confidence in any situation. Dental implants go into the jawbone where the missing tooth was, alongside healthy adjacent teeth. The jawbone then supports the implant just like with the natural teeth, thereby strengthening and stimulating bone growth.
Let me be clear. Like any medical device, there is no 100% guarantee on how long they will last or whether adjustments will need to be made. There are many risk factors that impact the survival of dental implants such as patient’s medical history, smoking, periodontal disease, oral hygiene. Basically, it will depend on how well you care for them and your periodontal health. If you follow the care protocol and come in for maintenance there is a much better chance the implants will last. Statistically speaking, more than 90% of implants will still be functional at ten years and I tell patients that the majority can expect the implants to function at a high degree of success for a minimum of five years, but I have seen ten years and longer. While we do not implement a general warranty for dental implants, I address this topic on a case-by-case basis after careful consideration of the patient and circumstances.
I can recall as a kid, on several occasions, being less than thrilled to visit the dentist. When my mother told me we were going to get my teeth checked it was all she could do to keep me from running to hide. But, I also recall that every time I was apprehensive my fears would quickly disappear when the dentist came into the room. He was gentle and patient and had an amusing sense of humor. I can’t say for sure that my exposure to the dental chair at a young age wasn’t at least a tiny bit of inspiration for my career choice years later.
But, dental fear and anxiety are pretty common actually. For some it is a mild feeling of anxiousness yet for others it can be an intense fear or dread, referred to as a phobia (odontophobia).Their reluctance to visit the dentist is often a source of pain and swelling, lack of nutrition, missed work, medical complications. When those people do eventually seek dental care, their teeth are often in such bad shape that they require more extensive dental work which reinforces their fear. Unfortunately, the fact that seeing the dentist for regular care and maintaining good oral health can be helpful is not enough of a motivation for many people to overcome their fears and see one. While some may have had a traumatic dental experience at some point, for others it may be due to other existing anxieties. According to researchers in Sweden, about five percent of people have severe dental anxiety. The researchers found five strategies people use to get over their fear of the dentist. Their findings were published in the journal, Acta Odontologica Scandinavica. Common strategies are distracting yourself (such as counting or mental games), distancing (telling yourself the pain or discomfort feels like something else), prayer, personal efficacy (telling yourself to be strong), optimism (telling yourself everything will be okay).
One of the things I always like to do whether or not a patient has fear and anxiety is to get to know them. I share a personal story and make my patients feel comfortable by asking them to tell me about themselves. I sit with them and explain diagnoses and procedures. I let patients look at the equipment I will be using. Some of my patients choose to bring earbuds and listen to their own music or an audiobook and that is perfectly fine. The important thing is to allow enough time to accommodate and make patients feel comfortable and their needs heard. Not all patients have anxiety or dental fear, but for those who do it certainly is not a deterrent to us caring for their teeth.
I recently came across some facts regarding ancient dentistry and oral care. It’s always interesting to see how much has changed and yet in some cases, I find it amazing how innovative things were for those times.
- Egyptians were reportedly the first to use toothpaste, the main ingredients of which were eggshells and pumice.
- Although they did not have toothbrushes or toothpaste, the ancient Romans of Pompeii were said to have excellent teeth because their diets were so low in sugar.
- The Mayans actually used tooth-shaped shells for dental implants! The shells contained calcium carbonate which allowed them to integrate with the bone.
- In medieval times, the Japanese used to dye their teeth black through a practice called Ohaguro which was a statement of beauty. It evidently acted as a dental sealant to prevent tooth decay as well.
- Ancient civilizations as far back as 2,500 years ago, bedazzled their teeth with semi-precious jewels, attaching the stones with adhesives made of natural resins like plant sap.
- The Etruscans were likely the first to experiment with filling gold teeth.
So, these are just a few of the interesting facts I found in ancient dentistry. What amazes me most is their ingenuity given the lack of modern resources and technology.
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