Bad Beans: Why Coffee Can Hurt Your Smile (and What You Can Do About It)

by MikeMeehan 9/29/2016 3:56 PM

Each morning, entering the office, I fetch my “Good health starts here” travel mug and pour myself some coffee. To me, the habit isn’t entirely out of choice — read: excruciating caffeine withdrawals otherwise — but the antioxidants and beneficial nutrients in coffee are certainly a perk. The benefits to drinking coffee are many. Coffee can: Improve brain function and heart health Boost metabolism Lower risk for diabetes, dementia, cirrhosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease Be a good source of nutrients like riboflavin, pantothenic acid, manganese, potassium, magnesium and niacin Provide antioxidants like hyrdocinnamic acid and polyphenol (In fact, one study listed coffee as the number one source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet.) Unfortunately, coffee and teeth don’t go well together. You might even say coffee has stained its reputation with teeth. Why Coffee Stains Teeth If you were to magnify the tooth — enough to see the enamel — you’d discover a tooth isn’t made up of a single piece of enamel. It’s made up of many enamel rods. And we mean many: One tooth can contain anywhere from 5 million to 12 million enamel rods. On the surface of the tooth, the rods run parallel to one another, but deep down, they wind together. As it pertains to coffee — imagine enamel rods like bristles on a brush, just crystallized (because an enamel rod is a tightly packed mass of hydroxyapatite crystals). Now, imagine coffee seeping between the bristles. That’s kind of what happens with teeth, except it’s the pigment from coffee embedding itself in the rows of enamel rods. The pigment is responsible for the discoloration. And, unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t stop there. More Bad News If you prefer your coffee hot, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. Hot drinks tend to discolor enamel over time, as the temperature changes cause teeth to expand and contract slightly. This can make it easier for dark stains to penetrate between enamel rods. And no, it doesn’t help if you’ve lightened the color of the coffee with creamer and sugar; the coffee still contains the same pigments. Stains don’t just apply to coffee, either. For example, tea, red wine and soda can also stain teeth. In fact, some tea — like green and black tea — can stain teeth worse than coffee, because it contains higher amounts of tannins. Tannins are chemical compounds known for having a calming effect, but they also get stuck between enamel rods. So what does this mean for your future with coffee? If you’re like me, giving up coffee isn’t an option — read: excruciating caffeine withdrawals. Luckily, you have some other options. Five steps you can take include: Five Steps You Can Take to Lessen Coffee Stains Drink through a straw. While the amount of sugar in your Starbucks Frappuccino is nothing to smile about, the straw it comes with might be. Drinking through a straw lessens the contact of coffee with your teeth, and can cut down on staining. Rinse your mouth after you drink coffee. By rinsing your mouth out with water, you can neutralize your mouth’s pH levels. You can also use antibacterial mouthwash to loosen up particles on the teeth. Wait 30 minutes before brushing. It’s a good idea to wait 30 minutes after drinking coffee before brushing. Otherwise, you’ll dig acids deeper into your enamel. Have a brushing routine. Brushing and flossing twice a day can cut down on tooth stains. Schedule a professional cleaning once every six months. Your dentist can polish away built up stains, brightening your smile.         Coffee can be hard on the teeth. But it can be even harder to give up. And with September 29 being National Coffee Day, we don’t want to downplay the real benefits of drinking coffee in moderation. So wake up, smell the coffee and take the steps you need to protect your smile.

Don’t Brush It Off: This Self-Improvement Month, Improve Your Brushing Technique

by MikeMeehan 9/22/2016 4:07 PM

September has been designated National Self-Improvement Month. And though the designation has proven surprisingly difficult to substantiate — the National Day Calendar listed its history as “To Be Researched” — a little self-improvement never hurt. In fact, you might expect the exact opposite. When it comes to dental hygiene, brushing and flossing are some of the most important routines for your smile, yet they could possibly use a little improvement. Why You Need to Brush and Floss Brushing and flossing can remove plaque, tartar and stains. These three culprits can cause problems of all sorts:   Cavities Gum disease, like gingivitis or periodontitis Weakened tooth enamel, making teeth more susceptible to chips or cracks   Conditions like these can wreak havoc on your smile. But the issues don’t stop there. In fact, here’s a saying worth remembering: You can’t spell overall without oral. As in, oral health directly affects overall wellness. Bad oral health doesn’t just put you at risk for cavities, gum disease, and weakened tooth enamel; it can increase risks for serious conditions like diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The solution, of course, is brushing and flossing, but only when done so properly. There are a few improper ways of going about them: Three Wrong Ways to Brush   Brushing with force. Brushing too hard might make you feel like you’re getting your teeth extra clean, but your teeth won’t be thanking you. Using too much force can lead to tooth abrasion, little notches in the teeth near the gums. Starting in the same place every time. Usually, when something is routine, the tendency is to start in the exact same place every single time. For brushing, this isn’t necessarily the best technique. It takes two minutes to brush your teeth. When you start, the first tooth has your full attention. But by the time you’ve reached 1:45, you might be thinking about that board meeting you have in an hour. For more evenly-cleaned teeth, consider a new first tooth each time you brush. Leaving your toothbrush on a bathroom sink or counter. This isn’t really a brushing technique, but it can defeat an otherwise perfect routine. Your bathroom isn’t the exactly the cleanest room in your house — to avoid getting too “potty” mouthed about it — so your toothbrush is susceptible to germs if you park it there. Should you keep your toothbrush in the bathroom, at least put it in a holder where it can air-dry, and where the bristles won’t touch the germy sink or counter. Pro-tip: If you’re on vacation and using a travel bag, don’t store the toothbrush while it’s damp, as bacteria can grow on a moist toothbrush.       Two Wrong Ways to Floss   Flossing too fast. Save for not flossing at all, rushed flossing may be a worst practice, as one up-and-down between your teeth might miss some food particles and won’t get under the gumline as effectively. Stopping at the sight of blood. If your gums start to bleed, it’s probably due to inflammation from bacteria that’s gotten into them. If you stop at the sight of blood, the bacteria wins, and the inflammation could grow worse.     At this point, it may feel like there’s a whole lot wrong with the world: diseases that want to rob you of your wellness, and wrong techniques that could prevent you from fighting them. But September is self-improvement month, and there’s love at the end of the day. Here’s how you can improve your brushing and flossing techniques. Six Steps for Better Brushing   Place your toothbrush bristles at a 45-degree angle to the gumline Use just enough pressure to feel bristles against your gums and between teeth. Don’t squish the bristles Brush all inner and outer tooth surfaces several times, using short, circular strokes. Be sure to brush along the gumline as well Brush chewing surfaces straight on. Clean the inside surfaces of front teeth by tilting the brush vertically and making up-and-down strokes with the front of the brush Clean only one or two teeth at a time Brush your tongue, as oral bacteria can remain in taste buds   Five Steps for Flossing   Start with an 18-inch strand of floss. Wind most of it around one of your middle fingers and the rest around the same finger on your other hand Tighten floss with about an inch of floss between your hands. Glide floss between teeth with a gentle sawing motion Curve it into a C against your tooth Hold the floss against each tooth, gently scraping the tooth’s side while moving the floss away from the gum. Repeat on all teeth. Don’t forget the back ones Rinse to remove any loosened plaque and food particles   For #SelfImprovementMonth this September, we’re brushing up on our brushing and flossing technique. What have you been doing to improve yourself?

National Fresh Breath Day: Tips to Freshen Your Breath

by MikeMeehan 8/4/2016 4:31 PM

That clean, fresh feeling your mouth has after you brush your teeth in the morning helps get your day started and can give you a boost of confidence. But as the day wears on, your breath may take a nose dive. To mark National Fresh Breath Day, we’ve identified some potential causes of bad breath and ways that you can maintain clean, fresh breath. Bad breath can be caused by: Foods: Eating garlic, onions and spicy dishes can not only lead to strong odors lingering in your mouth, but after these foods are digested, their chemicals travel through the bloodstream to the lungs where you breathe them out. Poor oral hygiene: Not brushing and flossing enough can lead to plaque and bacteria build up in your mouth resulting in cavities, gum disease and infections. Dry mouth: Saliva helps clean your mouth naturally. When your mouth is dry and not producing enough saliva, food particles and bacteria remain in your mouth causing bad breath. Health issues: Diseases such as diabetes, bronchitis, acid reflex, ulcers, cancers and kidney or liver disease can give off strong odors that can be detected in the mouth. Tobacco: Smoking and chewing tobacco cause their own unpleasant odors. Using tobacco can also lead to gum disease, which is another source of bad breath.         You can freshen your breath by: Brushing your teeth and tongue at least twice a day and flossing at least once per day. Using a tongue scraper also helps remove bacteria from your tongue. Drinking lots of water to rinse and clean your mouth of bacteria. Avoiding sweets. Bacteria feed on sugar making bad breath worse. Chewing sugarless gum to produce saliva, which cleans your mouth. Not using tobacco. If these tips don’t help eliminate bad breath, consult your dentist or doctor. Your bad breath may be a symptom of a larger medical issue.

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