Category Archives: Nutrition

Gluten Sensitivity can Lead to Dental Problems

gluten free.

There’s been a growing awareness about the effects of gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, rye and sometimes oats, on certain people. An estimated 1 in 133 Americans have Celiac Disease (CD), a gluten-related disorder that causes the body’s immune system to work against itself. And if you have CD, you could eventually face dental problems like enamel pitting and erosion.

When a person with CD consumes gluten, their immune system mistakenly identifies the protein as malicious and attacks it. The attack occurs in the membranes that line the digestive system, which in the process destroys cilia, tiny hair-like structures that aid in food absorption. This disrupts the body’s normal absorption of nutrients, which can lead to a number of systemic conditions including intestinal cancer.

Because of the lack of nutrients, your teeth’s enamel may develop defects. You may begin to see dull spots or pitting, or chalky grooves in its normally shiny surface: this is a sign you’ve lost surface enamel crystals (decalcification). You may also be more susceptible to outbreaks of aphthous ulcers (canker sores).

Because symptoms can be misdiagnosed or go unnoticed, it may be years before you know you have CD. You can, however, get a definitive diagnosis through a blood test for gluten antibodies, which is then confirmed with a biopsy of a tissue specimen from the intestine.

While there’s ongoing research for CD-related medication, there’s currently only one recognized treatment for it — remove gluten from your diet. This is much harder than it sounds, and requires knowing what you can and can’t eat, along with strict monitoring of food package labeling. Thankfully, the world is becoming better educated in this respect as more food manufacturers are clearly labeling products containing gluten and restaurants are providing gluten-free menu options.

Once you have dietary controls in place, your dental issues can be treated as any other person, with one exception: none of the products used in treatment like polishing paste or fluoride gels should contain gluten, and must be verified before using.

CD is a serious condition that could even become life-threatening. Knowing you or someone in your family has it will help you protect both your overall health and your teeth.

If you would like more information on the gluten’s effect on dental health, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Gluten & Dental Problems.”

Limit Sugar in Your Diet for Better Oral and General Health

sugar.

Even after decades emphasizing oral hygiene and supplemental fluoride to fight dental disease, we’re now seeing an increase in tooth decay, especially among children. What’s causing this alarming trend?

Many in both the dental and medical professions link this and other health problems to a rise in the amount and consumption of sugar added to food products. A number of years ago our annual average consumption of added sugar was about 4 pounds per person; today, it’s closer to 90 pounds.

The increase in sugar consumption can be traced to the 1970s when the food industry began adding more sugar to make processed foods stripped of oils and fats taste better. Today, 77% of the approximately 600,000 food items sold in the United States contain some form of sugar (under a variety of names).

This additional sugar, however, has produced an unintended consequence: sugar triggers the release of a brain chemical called dopamine that regulates our sense of reward when we engage in a desirable behavior. The excess dopamine creates a weak addiction to sugar, which then leads to overconsumption, contributing to our current obesity epidemic and the rise in health problems like heart disease or Type 2 diabetes. This is especially alarming among children: thirty years ago Type 2 diabetes was unheard of among children — today there are over 55,000 diagnosed pediatric cases.

For both you and your family’s general and dental health, you should consider ways to reduce your sugar intake: purchase and eat most of your food from the “outer edges” of your supermarket — meats, dairy, and fresh vegetables and fruits (which do contain the sugar fructose, but are mostly fiber that slows the liver’s processing of the sugar); limit processed foods with added sugar, and learn to recognize its inclusion in products by reading ingredients labels. You should also be wary of sweetened beverages such as sodas, sports drinks, teas or juices, and try to drink more water.

The recommended daily sugar consumption is less than six teaspoons a day (about two-thirds the amount in one can of soda). By restricting this consumption, you’ll improve your general health and reduce your risk for dental disease.

If you would like more information on the general and dental health effects of sugar, please contact us by calling (630) 352-0242.

Limiting Refined Sugar in Your Diet can Reduce Risk of Tooth Decay

sugar.

“Cut down on sweets, especially between meals” is perhaps one of the least popular words of advice we dentists regularly give. We’re not trying to be killjoys, but the facts are undeniable: both the amount and frequency of sugar consumption contributes to tooth decay. Our concern isn’t the naturally occurring sugars in fruits, vegetables, grains or dairy products, but rather refined or “free” sugars added to foods to sweeten them.

The World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration both advise consuming no more than 50 grams (about ten teaspoons) of sugar a day. Unfortunately, our nation’s average per person is much higher: we annually consume around 140 pounds per capita of refined sugars like table sugar or high fructose corn syrup, more than three times the recommended amount. Soft drinks are the single largest source of these in our diets — Americans drink an average of 52 gallons every year.

The connection between sugar and tooth decay begins with bacteria that ferments sugar present in the mouth after eating. This creates high levels of acid, which causes the mineral content of tooth enamel to soften and erode (a process called demineralization) and makes the teeth more susceptible to decay. Saliva naturally neutralizes acid, but it takes about thirty minutes to bring the mouth’s pH to a normal level. Saliva can’t keep up if sugars are continually present from constant snacking or sipping on soft drinks for long periods.

You can reduce the sugar-decay connection with a few dietary changes: limit your intake of sugar-added foods and beverages to no more than recommended levels; consume sweets and soft drinks only at meal times; replace sugar-added foods with fresh fruits and vegetables and foods that inhibit the fermentation process (like cheese or black and green teas); and consider using mint or chewing gum products sweetened with xylitol, a natural alcohol-based sugar that inhibits bacterial growth.

Last but not least, practice good oral hygiene with daily brushing and flossing, along with regular office cleanings and checkups. These practices, along with limits on refined sugar in your diet, will go a long way toward keeping your teeth and mouth healthy and cavity-free.

If you would like more information on the relationship of sugar and dental disease, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition & Oral Health.”

Plan Your Sports Nutrition and Hydration to Reduce Tooth Decay Risk

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If you or your family has an active sports lifestyle, you probably already know the importance of food and liquids for energy and hydration. But what you eat and drink (and how often) could unintentionally increase your teeth’s susceptibility to tooth decay. With that in mind, you should plan your nutrition and hydration intake for strenuous exercise to maximize energy and reduce the risk of tooth decay.

On the general health side, carbohydrates are your main source of energy for sports or exercise activity. You should eat a substantial carbohydrate-based meal (such as pasta, cereal or sandwiches) a few hours before a planned event. An hour before, you can snack on something easily digestible (avoiding anything fatty) to prevent hunger and as additional energy fuel.

It’s also important to increase your liquid intake before strenuous activity to avoid dehydration, usually a couple of hours before so that your body has time to eliminate excess fluid. During the activity, you should drink three to six ounces of water or sports drink every ten to twenty minutes to replace fluid lost from perspiration.

While water is your best hydration source, sports drinks can be helpful — they’re designed to replace electrolytes (sodium) lost during strenuous, non-stop activity lasting more than 60 to 90 minutes. They should only be consumed in those situations; your body gains enough from a regular nutritional diet to replace lost nutrients during normal activity.

In relation to your oral health, over-consumption of carbohydrates (like sugar) can increase your risk of tooth decay. The acid in most sports drinks also poses a danger: your teeth’s enamel dissolves (de-mineralizes) in too acidic an environment. For these reasons, you should restrict your intake of these substances — both what you eat and drink and how often you consume them. You should also practice regular oral hygiene by brushing and flossing daily, waiting an hour after eating or drinking to brush giving your saliva time to wash away food particles and neutralize the acid level in your mouth.

Knowing what and when to eat or drink is essential to optimum performance and gain in your physical activities. Along with good oral hygiene, it can also protect your oral health.

If you would like more information on the best sports-related diet for both general and oral health, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition for Sports.”

Good Nutrition: Important for Your Mouth and Your Body

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Your general and oral health go hand in hand — whatever is going on with the rest of your body can also affect your teeth, gums and other mouth tissues. That’s why it’s essential that you eat a diet with the right balance of healthy foods, while cutting back on unhealthy ones that contribute to tooth decay and other health issues.

When we refer to healthy foods, we mean foods with high nutritional value. These kinds of foods provide nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water) that build strong bodies (including teeth and gums), fight disease and help our bodies maintain good function on the cellular level.

A healthy diet has three components: variety, eating several different kinds of foods with a wide range of nutrients; balance, eating a proper portion from different food groups; and moderation, eating portions that are enough to meet energy needs and cellular health while not overindulging. It’s important to remember that excess carbohydrates, proteins and fats are stored as body fat, which has an impact on a healthy weight.

In addition, you should also bear in mind how certain foods can have a direct effect on your teeth and gums. Foods with added sugars (such as refined sugar or corn syrup) and starches are a rich food source for decay-causing bacteria; naturally occurring sugars found in fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products are not as great a threat. In this regard, the best approach is to decrease the amount of processed foods in your diet, while increasing your intake of whole foods.

You can also help deter tooth decay with certain foods. Eating cheese after a sweet snack helps prevent an increase in the mouth’s acidic level, a contributing factor in tooth decay. Eating plant foods that require chewing stimulates saliva, which also helps prevent a rise in the acidic level.

Proper nutrition is a key component in maintaining overall good health. It’s just as important for keeping your teeth and gums healthy and functioning.

If you would like more information on nutrition and the part it plays with your oral health, please contact us by calling (630) 352-0242. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition: Its Role in General and Oral Health.”