6 Tips to Help With Tooth Sensitivity

tooth sensitivityTooth sensitivity is one of the most common complaints I encounter in the office, especially at this time of year when the weather gets frigid outdoors. Sensitivity results from exposure of the nerve endings that connect to the pulp tissue inside the tooth, commonly referred to as “the nerve”. This typically occurs when the protective tooth structure insulating the pulp is eroded or abraded away. So here are some tips that may help if you are experiencing this problem.

  1. Use a toothpaste designed to reduce sensitivity.

There is only one FDA approved active ingredient to reduce sensitivity – 5% potassium nitrate! This is contained in Crest Sensitive, Sensodyne Pronamel and several other over the counter toothpastes. The effectiveness of these toothpastes depends on regular usage over an extended period of time. Always check the ingredient labels to make sure they contain 5% potassium nitrate!

  1. Use a soft tooth brush.

As mentioned, sensitivity occurs when the protective outer layers of the teeth are lost from abrasion or wear. Overzealous scrubbing with a hard tooth brush is one cause that is easily avoided by using a soft brush and gently moving it in a circular motion along the gum lines. You will remove the disease causing dental plaque without promoting sensitivity.

  1. Keep up your routine

Those of you who have been with me for a while know that I give “homework” to our patients. Do it! Slacking off, i.e. around the holidays or while away at school, allows the bacteria in dental plaque to produce acids that further erode tooth structure. This promotes tooth decay, gum disease and of course, sensitivity.

  1. Make sure you are not grinding your teeth

Many of us grind our teeth when stressed, especially at night. Grinding (bruxism) creates premature and excessive wear on the teeth. This results in increased sensitivity and often sore jaw muscles. Check with your sleeping partner to make sure you’re not doing this at night. It’s more common than you think and is a major contributor to sensitivity.

  1. Avoid whitening toothpastes

Whitening toothpastes contain carbamide peroxide and frequently very abrasive compounds that wear away tooth structure. Carbamide peroxide becomes hydrogen peroxide in the mouth and promotes sensitivity. It should be avoided or at least done with professional supervision.

  1. Avoid acidic foods

Energy drinks, sodas and other acidic foods and beverages chemically erode tooth structure just like the bacterial plaque that live on our teeth. This promotes sensitivity. Occasionally when I indulge, as many of us do, I will rinse with water or chew some gum sweetened with xylitol to neutralize the acids immediately and then wait 30 minutes before brushing. Brushing too soon after consuming acidic foods can increase the amount of tooth wear!

I hope these few tips will help if you are experiencing tooth sensitivity. As always, please check with us if you experiencing this issue as sensitivity can also be a symptom of other and more serious problems. If you’re not certain about your technique, please ask us the next time you are in the office Don’t hesitate to contact me or the staff at my office, Dr. Laurence H. Stone, DDS, any time at 215-230-7667. We are only too happy to help. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Tooth Whitening Foods – Can Some Foods Really Whiten Your Teeth?

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There may actually be some truth to this according to recent studies. There were five foods reported that may help keep your teeth healthy and white when incorporated into your diet:

  1. Steak. It may be a stretch, but according to the American Dental Association, the phosphorus in steak protects tooth enamel and bone. It’s known that the act of chewing stimulates salivary flow and that saliva contains antibacterial properties in addition to enzymes that aid in digestion. These antibacterial properties can help protect teeth from decay causing bacteria, so I guess the message here is “chew away”!
  2. Dark Chocolate. As an independent distributor of Xocai, the world’s first healthy chocolate, I can tell you that dark chocolate contains tannins (antioxidants found in cacao) that prevent bacteria from sticking to your teeth while also neutralizing the microorganisms that cause tooth decay and bad breath. Dark chocolate also contains theobromine, an active ingredient that can harden enamel. To learn more about healthy chocolate (not candy!) check out my web site @ www.drlarryshealthychocolate.com or give me a call.
  3. Cheese. When the pH (the amount of acidity) in your mouth drops below 5.5, acids can erode and discolor your teeth, creating an environment that also favors the bacteria causing decay. Consuming cheese raises the pH of your saliva, protecting the teeth from cariogenic bacteria.
  4. Xylitol. Xylitol is an all-natural sugar substitute that comes from Beech trees and other plant sources. The reason dentists love it is because xylitol is non-nutritive to the bacteria that cause tooth decay. In other words, it kills them! The most favored form of xylitol is when it is used in chewing gums. As mentioned, the act of chewing stimulates salivary flow, bathing your teeth in calcium and phosphate while washing away harmful bacteria. But remember, all sugar-free gums are not created equal! Xylitol needs to be the FIRST listed ingredient on the package for it to be effective. Some examples of xylitol containing gums are Hershey’s Ice Cubes, Mentos and some Trident brands. You can check out the web site www.Xylitol.org to find other sources of xylitol.
  5. Tea. Tea has always been touted as having health benefits, but it also contains high levels of polyphenols that fight bacteria, acids and even enzymes that make it easier for dental plaque to stick to your teeth. Tea also has high levels of fluoride which strengthen teeth and make it more difficult for the acids produced by the bacterial plaque to dissolve the enamel. Excessive amounts of tea might stain your teeth but taken in moderation tea is one of the better beverages we can drink. Bottoms up!

 

Sugar and health – Everything You Were Afraid To Know

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And what you can do about it.

Sugar is not just the bane of your average dentist but of the entire health care community as well. There is an excellent article in this month’s (August 2013) issue of National Geographic outlining the history and general relationship of sugar and health.

Although the American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of no more than 150 calories (9 tsp.) for men and 100 calories (6 tsp.) of sugar for women, consumption has ballooned from an average of 333 cal./ day in 1970 to 363 cal./ day in 2011. That’s over 22 teaspoons a day for the average American! And America is the top consumer of high-fructose corn syrup, the worst form of sugar. That is the equivalent of 51 pounds of sugar per person annually!

The result of all this sugar intake is not just an alarming increase in the tooth decay rate in children but an increase in the incidence of “metabolic syndrome” in American adults, possibly affecting as much as one third of the population! Metabolic syndrome is a condition characterized by obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and an increased risk of heart attack. I won’t go into how this happens (you can read about it yourself if interested) except to say the primary culprit is — you guessed it — sugar!

The solution is obvious — eat less sugar. But this is difficult in a society that puts sugar in everything from ketchup to cornbread. The solution I recommend is Xylitol, a natural sweetener that is FDA approved.
It is also safe for diabetics, prevents ear infections, increases the activity of white blood cells and prevents cavities! You can get all the information you need regarding xylitol by going to: www.Xylitol.org or by contacting our office for more references. We keep an entire list of products containing xylitol that I would be happy to share with you.

To your health!