Category: New Research

Show Me… Your teeth?

Missouri dental health
Missouri scored in the bottom half of a recent national study of dental health.

29th Runner-Up

A recent study ranked Missouri 30th in the nation for quality of dental health. “So what?” some of you will say. “That’s pretty close to average.” Sort of… it’s a 42nd percentile ranking, right on the lower-middle end of the bell curve.

But the study also highlighted other, more disturbing Missouri statistics. The black marks on our state report card included a tie ranking as one of the states with the lowest percentage of teenagers who had visited a dentist in the prior 12 months. We are also tied with Mississippi for the fourth-highest percentage of adult smokers.

By the Numbers

The study employed broad survey categories of Dental Habits & Care, and Oral Health. Within those, statistical responses to weighted survey questions determined overall state rankings. Areas that were measured and compared included:

  •   Demographic info – Dentists per capita, percentage of adult smokers, etc.
  •   Local Resources – water fluoridation and school-based dental programs
  •   Symptoms & Effects – percentage of population that reported dry mouth, oral pain, sleeping problems or work absence due to oral conditions

In looking at the broader data, there were interesting trends that emerged. Minnesota had the top ranking, and the Upper Midwest was the highest-rated region, with those states occupying 7 of the Top 10 slots. The South was the poorest-faring region in the survey, with 8 states in the bottom 10 – including our neighbor Arkansas, which logged the 4th-worst overall rating.

More Dental Health Data 

Can’t get enough numbers? If you’re a stat-head who loves factoids and the trends behind them, you should definitely visit the resource pages on the websites of the American Dental Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

 

No smoke? You’re still playing with fire.

vaping and teeth
Vaping may be better for lungs, but what about your teeth?

Despite the host of other damaging effects, evidence of smoking is usually most obvious on a person’s teeth. But what about “ Vaping ” — the recent trend of smokeless electronic devices? They deliver a vapor-based dose of nicotine, tobacco’s addictive stimulant, while eliminating the harmful and annoying by-products of smoke.

The Evils of Tobacco

And there are a lot of those. Tobacco smoke produces tar (burned plant residue) and hundreds of other harmful chemicals. Many of these cause cancer and other health issues for smokers and those around them. Public awareness of the dangers has cut the nationwide number of smokers by 20% in the past decade, and by nearly 70% since 1965.

Since vaping was introduced in the U.S. in 2005, it has steadily gained popularity. In fact, as early as 2014, it had surpassed of all other tobacco products (including conventional cigarettes!) in total number of current users. More disturbingly, its use among young people has increased exponentially, with the number of current users among high school students tripling in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaping Risks

While vaping won’t blacken your teeth like cigarette smoking, nicotine can negatively affect your oral health. The chemical itself is a vasoconstrictor, which limits blood flow to the topical areas of the mouth by causing the blood vessels to contract. This prolonged lack of blood supply can lead to receding gums. Nicotine has also been shown to contribute to dry mouth and cause an increase in bacteria, which can play a part in everything from tooth decay to periodontal disease.

If you are one of the millions of Americans using a vapor device to quit conventional smoking, CONGRATULATIONS! Be sure to talk to us at your next appointment about getting rid of those last remnants of tobacco stains from your teeth. We have a variety of whitening options for bringing your smile back to its natural, tobacco-free color.

 

 

Yoga for the Body, Mind, and… Mouth?

Yoga offers a variety of full-body benefits… including your teeth! 

More studies are beginning to prove a direct link between Yoga and bone health, but what about your teeth? Can exercise really help a part of the body that isn’t even being exercised? The answer is Yes.

Yoga the 1500-year-old practice that combines physical, mental and spiritual aspects. It is comprised of a series of poses, stretches and transition movements focused on increasing strength, flexibility and balance. Yoga includes non-impact combinations, coupled with controlled breathing that complements the body’s motion. Similarly, yoga seeks to bring internal balance and tranquility to the busy, anxious mind that is common in today’s fast-paced world. There are various yoga disciplines or styles, including vinyasa, hatha, ashtanga, and the trendy bikram (or “hot yoga”).

Yoga Benefits

Yoga has been shown to help everything from back pain to diabetes, from digestive issues to stress and anxiety. But really— your teeth? How can breathing, bending and balancing possibly improve oral health? Here are three ways:

Posture

Most of us spend much of our time at school, work and home staring at a computer monitor or device screen. Unless you take direct action to sit and look up, our new digital lifestyle leads most of us to slouch or slump— both while sitting in chairs and standing. This creates improper neck/spine alignment, which in turn causes the lower jaw to imperceptibly shift forward. This causes misalignment that between lower and upper teeth, as well as compressing the atlas/axis joint that connects your skull and spine. The resulting tension on the surrounding bones, joints and muscles can cause inflammation and pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). If unchecked, this can lead to serious TMJ disorders that can have negative effects on your overall health.

Yoga naturally improves posture by strengthening the core muscles that hold your torso upright. A consistent, gentle yoga practice can actually help realign the spine after years of improperly sitting at work or at home, and many yoga practitioners have reduced or eliminated chronic back pain without surgical procedures or medication.

Stress

The most obvious benefit is less stress. As we noted in a recent post, high levels of anxiety are common among today’s children, youth and adults. Many professionals think that this increase stress may be contributing to a corresponding increase in teeth-grinding and associated jaw disorders.

Yoga has been shown to reduce anxiety by one-third, and cut symptoms of depression by half, according to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.

Saliva

The biochemical balance in your mouth impacts bacteria growth, which plays a critical role in plaque buildup and tooth decay. Certain breathing patterns and mouth positioning techniques in yoga can actually increase saliva production, helping to flush away cavity-causing food particles and maintain a balance of good and bad bacteria in the mouth.

“But I’m too busy for a full hour-long yoga practice!” many of you will say. If you can’t make it to a 60- or 90-minute class, there are other options. Many simple poses can be done anytime— on the couch, at your desk, during stoplights in traffic or really anywhere. Try these desk yoga moves, or discover your own set of poses from Pinterest.

If you’ve got a yoga story, share it with us at your next appointment. If you’re overdue for a cleaning, schedule it here. Until then, breathe, bend and be well. Namaste.

Cavity Prevention Pills?!

cavity prevention
             Someday reducing cavities could be this easy.

What if you could simply take a daily pill to reduce your risk of cavities? There’s no such Silver Bullet today, but it is a very real possibility for the future.

New Research

That prediction is based on the findings of a 2016 study by University of Florida Health. Published by the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, the study identified a new strain of bacteria – a form of Streptococcus, called A12. Researchers from the University of Florida College of Dentistry were originally trying to determine the causes of high pH in the mouth. But in the process, they discovered that A12 had an unexpected benefit. It combats “bad” bacteria in the mouth, specifically bacteria which cause excess acid in saliva.

The Importance of Acid

As we discussed in our last post, too-high pH levels can erode enamel and damage teeth. The discovery of A12’s acid-neutralizing powers could lead to probiotic supplements to boost its concentration in the mouth. That simple pill could balance oral pH and help keep your teeth strong and healthy.

While this new development might someday help protect against cavities, it wouldn’t replace healthy brushing habits or regular visits to Meyer & Johns Dental. If you are overdue for your six-month check-up, schedule it today!