Scientific studies are now revealing the full extent of damage a person can inadvertently cause to their tooth enamel by consuming highly acidic beverages. With a reported 30- 50 percent of U.S. teenagers consuming popularized energy drinks on a daily basis, it is important that parents and young adults as well as fitness enthusiasts, understand the disadvantages these drinks can pose to oral health.
A recent study cited in General Dentistry; the Academy of General Dentistry’s clinical, peer-reviewed journal has revealed that fitness-minded adults and adolescents who routinely consume sports and energy drinks have an alarming increase in irreversible damage to teeth, damage that specifically targets the tooth enamel; the thin, outer layer of the tooth that helps preserve the tooth’s structure and prevent decay. Damage caused to sensitive tooth enamel is almost always irreversible, and without the protection of enamel, teeth become highly sensitive, prone to cavities, and more prone to decay.
THE TRUE COST OF CONSUMING SPORTS DRINKS
People who pursue active lifestyles ironically may avoid colas or sugary drinks in favor of what they believe to be a ‘healthier’ alternative and so they tend to rely on sports or energy drinks to rehydrate after exercising. But, with the results of recent studies pointing to the fact that regular long-term use of such highly acidic beverages can lead to irreversible damage to dental enamel, athletic types are best advised to take precautions to protect their teeth by either choosing an alternative or adopting a habit of rinsing after consuming acidic drinks.
To determine the true acidic properties researchers examined the levels of acid in 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks. To test the effect of the acidity levels, samples of human tooth enamel were immersed in each beverage for 15 minutes, followed by immersion in artificial saliva for two hours. The test was repeated over five days, four times each day. The goal of the test was to simulate the same type of exposure teeth are subject to by someone who drinks an average of one beverage every few hours. The researchers found that damage to enamel was evident after only five days, and energy drinks in particular showed a significantly greater potential to damage teeth than sports drinks – in fact, up to twice as much damage.
From this test and others of a similar type we can now conclude that enamel damage associated with all beverages ranging from greatest (1) to least (6) damage to dental enamel are as follows:
- energy drinks
- sports drinks
- fitness water
- iced tea
Most cola-based drinks contain more than one type of acid, generally phosphoric and citric acids, both of which contribute to enamel damage. Sports beverages contain a range of other additives and organic acids that further exacerbate dental erosion. Organic acids also erode dental enamel as they break down calcium, which is needed to strengthen teeth and prevent gum disease.
HOW TO MINIMIZE THE DAMAGE
The best way to avoid damaging your dental enamel is to exercise caution when using sports drinks and similar beverages on a routine basis. Alternating sports drinks with water or low-fat milk after a workout can help to preserve tooth enamel and ultimately protect teeth from decay, but the best alternative is to minimize the intake of sports and energy drinks altogether. If you must drink acidic beverages it is advisable to chew sugar-free gum or rinse the mouth with water following consumption of the drinks as a way to increase saliva flow, which naturally helps to normalize acidity levels in the mouth. To avoid spreading acid onto the tooth surfaces thereby increasing the erosive action, it is a good idea to wait at least an hour before brushing after consuming sports and energy drinks.
Brushing our teeth is an exercise in self-care that most of us do at least twice a day but there is also something we seldom consider; the health of that toothbrush. It might shock you to realize that literally millions of microorganisms (bacteria) live on the bristles of your personal toothbrush. That comes down to millions of microscopic bugs that can potentially cause flu, colds and other illnesses.
Recent studies have confirmed that oral health is connected with overall healthfulness. For example, there is a strong correlation between heart disease, diabetes, premature delivery in pregnant women, and strokes; and gum disease. Researchers discovered there are upwards of 10 million bacteria live on the typical toothbrush and we know that tooth decay is also caused by the type of bacteria that can survive on toothbrushes.
Studies have proven that cold and flu viruses and even the viruses that cause fever blisters (Herpes Simplex I) can survive on toothbrushes for several days – infecting and re-infecting the unsuspecting owner of that toothbrush. Here are just a few viruses that thrive on toothbrushes and some of the problems they can cause:
- E. Coli: bloody diarrhea and severe abdominal pain and tenderness with no fever
- Influenza Virus: fever, cough, headache and fatigue, sore throat, vomiting and diarrhea
- Staphylococci Bacteria: abscesses, boils, and skin infections
- Herpes Simplex I: can affect the mouth, face and skin and can be present in the body without symptoms, generally causes recurring and painful blisters (cold sores or fever blisters)
- Candida Albicans: mild nasal congestion, blisters in the mouth, sore throat or abdominal pain, and/or fatigue, dizziness and mood swings
- Coliform Bacteria: usually present along other disease-causing bacteria and organisms
Some researchers also discovered bio-film thriving on toothbrushes, which is living colonies of breeding bacteria, with estimated numbers as high as 100 million microorganisms existing on individual brushes.
PROTECTING YOUR TOOTHBRUSH
Surprisingly, it isn’t the bacteria from your mouth that contributes to the worst bacterial problems on a toothbrush, it’s the fact that most people store their toothbrush unprotected in the open, on
the bathroom counter top. By far, flushing the toilet is the worst culprit for germs found on most toothbrushes. Every time you flush the toilet invisible jets of water propels germs into the air, where they can land on toothbrushes.
Family toothbrushes stored side-by-side only compound the risk of sharing germs and viruses. Bacteria, molds, and fungi love moist environments provided by most bathrooms and they also love dark enclosed spaces, so storing toothbrushes in the medicine cabinet may not be as ideal as you might think.
While most dentists recommend replacing your toothbrush every couple of months, most American’s aren’t likely to change their toothbrushes more than twice a year. Here are some steps you can take to keep your toothbrush germ free:
Storage: Store toothbrushes away from the toilet in a cool, dry place.
Rinse well: Wash off your toothbrush thoroughly with tap water every time you use it.
Dry it after use: Dry your toothbrush thoroughly between brushings and avoid using toothbrush covers, which can create a moist enclosed breeding ground for bacteria.
Store it upright. Store your toothbrush upright in a holder, rather than lying it down.
Keep it to yourself: Never share a toothbrush and avoid storing it side-by-side in the same container with other people’s brushes.
Ultraviolet Light: Studies indicate that ultraviolet light can be effective in killing germs on toothbrushes and are able to kill many of the bacteria, yeasts, and viruses. A study conducted at New York University Medical Center on countertop ultraviolet toothbrush sanitizers found that this device eliminated up to 99.9 percent of bacteria tested on toothbrushes.
Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse: Cheaper than an ultraviolet device and a measure perhaps just as effective could be the practice of rinsing your toothbrush after each use with hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is antibacterial, antifungal, kills mold and mildew and when used properly, it is non-toxic for humans, plants, household animals.
Best practice: keep it clean and keep on brushing
Now that you know how to keep your toothbrush truly clean and germ free as a way to protect yourself and your family from harmful bacteria, it is also important to choose a brush that will do the work of keeping your teeth clean without harming the delicate surface of the tooth or gums. Choose a brush with soft or medium bristles, as they are gentler on the gums and may actually clean better because they’re more flexible. Brush twice a day, at least two minutes each time and rinse your mouth after sugary or starchy snacks. Replace your toothbrush frequently. These practices combined with visiting your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings will help to ensure that you have a lifelong healthy smile.
The biggest culprit in tooth decay today is sugars found in processed foods, candy, soft drinks, sweetened juices, and others foodstuff. Fructose, lactose, and glucose are all sugars that cause a rapid production of acid and the resulting destruction of teeth enamel, leading to tooth decay. The carbohydrates in sugars cause bacteria to grow rapidly, breaking down the body’s natural ability to resist attack. Research is indicating that even if you brush all of the offending sugars away from your teeth, just the simple act of eating these kinds of foods can increase the likelihood that your teeth will decay.
Cavities are formed when bacteria feed upon food particles that cling to the teeth or become stuck in crevices or grooves on the surface of teeth. In particular, the bacteria that are responsible for cavities love carbohydrates. As they feed, the bacteria secrete acid that compromises the integrity of the enamel which normally helps to protect teeth. The rate of secretion depends upon the type of carbohydrate that the bacteria are feeding upon – in other words, some sugars are worse than others.
To compound the problem, research conducted on lab rats at Loma Linda University has indicated that there is a definite relationship between what kind of food we eat and our ability to maintain good oral health, regardless of how well we brush and floss. In that study Dr. Ralph Steinman injected rats with a glucose solution so that the sugars introduced into the system would avoid contact with the teeth entirely. He found that glucose levels reversed the normal flow of fluid in the dentin tubules, resulting in all of the test animals developing severe tooth decay. Although animal studies may not be entirely applicable to the human situation, the results clearly point to a need to take a closer look at how nutrition can impact oral health.
THE BIGGER PICTURE ON CAVITY PREVENTION
Good oral health is not just about limiting sugar as a way to avoid cavities. It’s also about learning how key nutrients such as minerals, antioxidants and vitamins can support strong teeth, healthy gums and bone. One supplement that is showing good results at reducing the risk of cavities is vitamin D. Vitamin D induces the production of naturally occurring enzymes called cathelicidin and defensins in the mouth, enzymes that support available antibacterial properties in the saliva. Together these emzymes create a powerful antimicrobial peptide or protein which attacks oral bacteria known to cause cavities and tooth decay.
To take it to the next level, vitamin D taken in combination with a calcium supplement is proving to be a powerful blend of supplements that can prevent cavities. Not only is vitamin D naturally produced by the body in response to sunlight, but it comes with no side effects (unlike fluoride) – particularly when activated naturally though exposures to sunlight and/or as long as proper dosages are followed when using supplements. Foods rich in vitamin D include: shiitake and button mushrooms, mackerel and salmon, herring, tuna, catfish and eggs – among others – while green leafy vegetables are a good source for calcium – and calcium we already know it is necessary for bone health.
RESTORING HEALTH TO TEETH & GUMS
It is possible to change the course of tooth decay and increase oral healthfulness by maintaining good oral hygiene, adopting a routine of good nutrition and taking supplements aimed at increasing the health of teeth and gums. With just a little effort, it is also possible to strengthen and restore the teeth to perfect health.
People tend to think that teeth are something other than living organs – which is what they actually are. Having an understanding that teeth are alive gives us a chance to rethink how we treat our teeth, and points to the role nutrition can have on teeth and gums. Teeth are nourished both through the bloodstream as it flows into the root to the tooth’s pulp chamber and from saliva and food as it passes through the mouth. Therefore, it is vitally important to nourish the whole body in a manner that allows the blood to be rich in all elements the teeth require to maintain optimal healthfulness.
A healthy diet and body helps to ensure that the saliva will be high in calcium and phosphate. Through this process the daily deterioration caused by chewing and eating acidic foods, commonly called ‘demineralisation’ will be reduced by constant remineralization via healthy saliva balanced in the proper pH range and naturally filled with the necessary and important minerals. In other words, in addition to healthy supply of minerals provided by the bloodstream to the pulp of the tooth — inside the mouth the quality of saliva is of crucial importance in the prevention of tooth cavities since it is this medium which bathes and carries nutrition to teeth.
YOUR HEALTHY MOUTH
Recommended for healthy teeth: Calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables (for vitamins A and C), filtered water and tea
Not recommended for healthy teeth: sticky foods that lodge between the teeth, snacking between meals, sweet drinks and snacks, acidic drinks
Natural dentistry has long believed that by maintaining a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise and using vitamin supplements a person can prevent, if not cure, tooth and gum disease. The best way to ensure that your teeth will be healthy for your whole life is to adopt a healthy eating plan, take supplements if you need to, and most importantly continue to practice good oral care and hygiene, which should include having your teeth professionally cleaned and seeing your dentist regularly.
WHAT IS TOOTH DECAY (CARIES OR CAVITIES)?
Tooth decay is the disease known as caries or cavities — a highly Preventable disease caused by many factors.
WHO IS AT RISK FOR TOOTH DECAY?
The answer is… everyone who has a mouth. We all host bacteria in our mouths which make everyone a potential target for cavities. Risk factors that put a person at a higher risk for tooth decay include:
- Persons with diets high in sweets, carbohydrates, and sugars
- Persons who live in communities with limited or no fluoridated water supplies although fluoride has been found to render skeletal bones brittle in high concentrations.
- Children and senior citizens
WHY SHOULD I SPEND A LOT OF MONEY ON A ROOT CANAL? WHY NOT JUST PULL THE TOOTH?
Losing a tooth can be the beginning of many more lost teeth. Saving the Tooth maintains space, keeps other teeth from shifting, and eliminates the need and cost of a bridge or implant. Although seemingly expensive, it is actually quite cost effective. Increasing evidence however shows that root canals can lead other problems such as local bone infections, other systemic problems and even some types of cancers.
WHAT ARE DENTAL IMPLANTS?
Dental Implants are made of titanium and placed directly into your jawbone surgically. Once they integrate with your bone, a crown, bridge or denture is placed over the implants. They are proven and predictable forms of tooth replacement which are also the least invasive with respect to the remaining teeth. In other words there is no need to cut down or grind one, two or even three adjacent teeth in order to replace missing ones with a bridge.