Monday, November 30, 2015

You are what you drink

Walk around with water

I was not surprised to read about a recent research study out of Australia that concluded "diet" beverages are bad for the teeth. Sugar has long taken the blame for contributing to cavities, and deservedly so, but sugar is not solely to blame. Plaque also has to be present because plaque converts that sugar into acid on the teeth.

While beverages like diet soda contain sugar substitutes plaque germs
can't use to make acid, these drinks themselves contain acid (usually citric, carbonic or phosphoric.) Acid, whether it is made by plaque or in the drink itself, will erode enamel.

It doesn't matter to teeth where the acid comes from. Sipping on an acidic diet drink all day, in terms of the affect on the teeth, is just as bad as sipping on a sugary drink. The only benefit of most diet drinks is the elimination of the sugar and there are many who would argue that sugar substitutes are just as bad for overall health.
Diet Soda - Phosphoric and Citric Acids
Photo: Y. Mikalopas

The best rule of thumb is this: Drink any drink that is NOT water with a meal. Otherwise, drink water. You can't go wrong with water because it is the only drink that is both sugar and acid free.

(Did you know that black coffee and tea are acidic - about a pH of 5, but that green and herbal teas are close to water, about a pH of 7.)

This blog is not intended to treat or diagnose any dental or medical condition - see your dentist or doctor if you need help!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Be a Quitter

The Great American Smokeout

Cigarette smoking kills over 500,000 Americans each year including deaths due to second-hand smoke. Illness due to smoking results in hundreds of billions of dollars in medical costs. (

Every third Thursday each November, the American Cancer Society asks smokers to quit, even if it's for just one day ( After 20 minutes of not smoking, heart rate and blood pressure decrease; after 12 hours, carbon monoxide levels in the blood
Quit Smoking Today
Photo: Y. Mikalopas
drop. The longer a person stays smoke free the more health benefits are gained.

In addition to being devastating to the entire body, smoking affects the mouth and teeth in very significant ways. Smokers may find that their gums don't bleed, ordinarily a sign of health. However, smokers actually have a higher incidence of both periodontal disease and tooth loss than non-smokers. The gums aren't bleeding because the blood vessels are constricted and oxygen is needed more urgently by the lungs and heart. 

Smoking also increases risk for the following conditions in the mouth:
  • oral cancer 
  • esophageal cancer
  • periodontal/gum disease
  • cavities
  • tooth loss
  • black hairy tongue (if you've never seen it, Google it)
  • dry mouth
  • bad breath
Diseases caused by smoking and second hand smoke are preventable. Quitting, if only for one day, is the first step to better health.

sources: Ann Periodontol. 1998 Jul;3(1):88-101.,,, This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. If you need medical or dental treatment, seek help from your doctor or dentist. If you smoke, QUIT!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

November is American Diabetes Month

Diabetes and the Mouth

More than 30 million people in our country have diabetes, with another 80 million who are pre-diabetic and 7 million undiagnosed, making diabetes one of the largest health care concerns in our nation. The American Diabetes Association ( has declared November as American Diabetes Month to bring awareness to the disease.

In addition to complications such as heart attack and stroke, diabetics also suffer from oral health problems. Diabetes is an illness that clearly demonstrates how disease in the body can affect the mouth and how good oral health habits can impact the body in a positive way. 

Diabetics often have periodontal issues, especially bleeding gums. Since diabetics have a compromised immunity, their bodies have a hard time fighting infection and a hard time healing. This, along with high blood sugar levels, creates an environment ideal for plaque germs to thrive. 

Medications such as cholesterol and heart meds that diabetics often take to treat multiple systemic conditions can cause dry mouth, a serious oral condition. (See my post on dry mouth, Diabetics may also be prone to thrush, a fungal infection. This shows up in the mouth as sore red and white patches.

People with diabetes should take their medications, eat right, exercise,
A healthy diet is important for everyone.
(photo Y. Mikalopas)
and take very good care of their mouths. Diabetics should know their A1C test results (average blood sugar level,) and inform their dentist and dental hygienist of any medication changes or changes in medical treatment. Because the disease pathway of diabetes runs both ways, taking care of the teeth and gums can help diabetics keep blood sugar and infection under control.

In order to help people who have questions about diabetes, is sponsoring a question and answer series on Facebook and Twitter over the next couple of weeks. Use #YesSalud to participate and to get more information.

This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition or illness. Please see your medical or dental professional for treatment. Take care of yourself!