A Breath of Fresh Air: What I Learned from National 12-Hour Fresh Breath Day

by MikeMeehan 12/15/2016 3:11 PM

You might have participated with us earlier this week as we celebrated National 12-Hour Fresh Breath Day. Our useful videos are still available on Facebook. The purpose of National 12-Hour Fresh Breath Day is to appreciate oral hygiene and its importance by keeping breath fresh for 12 hours. Below is a journal of my participation, documenting the day’s unexpected challenges, breath-freshening tactics and tips for determining if your breath is actually fresh. 8 a.m. After a shower, I brushed and flossed my teeth. I followed techniques we wrote about here. Once I’d finished, I checked my mouth. My tongue had a white film on it, which indicated bad breath. I scrubbed my tongue with a toothbrush, as one of the leading culprits of bad breath is gunk collecting on the tongue. After I finished brushing, though, the white film remained. I needed to come up with a more effective trick. I had some mints handy, so I popped a couple of those and headed out the door. 9:30 a.m. At the office, I tried a tongue cleaner, which I’d bought at a grocery store on the way to work. The tongue cleaner was simple: a ring attached to a handle, kind of like a bubble blower. I stuck my tongue out, pressed the cleaner against the back of it and pulled forward. As I did, a yellowish saliva formed in the fold of my tongue. The yellowish color was from a buildup of bacteria that had accrued overnight. The saliva became trapped in the ring, which made the cleaner look even more like a bubble blower: one that had been dipped in bubble solution. As a man who brushes regularly, I was shocked by how gross my tongue was. 10 a.m. I poured a cup of coffee. As an unapologetic not-morning person, I need the caffeine. Unfortunately, strong-smelling drinks like coffee can lead to bad breath. I’d have to act soon. But first, I was going to enjoy me some coffee. 11:30 am Coffee finished, I tested my breath. At first, I used the age-old method of covering my mouth and nose with my hand and breathing into my palm. I didn’t smell anything, though. Having just had coffee, I didn’t trust those results. I tried the lick test. The lick test is useful, because you can be pretty discreet about it. Simply lick your wrist, wait for it to dry, then smell it. My breath didn’t smell nearly as bad as I anticipated. I considered more mints. But the mints contained sugar, and sugar can be a breeding ground for bacteria. I had a stick of sugar-free xylitol gum instead. 12 p.m. Of all the days to meet a friend for lunch — and at an Indian buffet, no less! I loaded up on butter chicken, chicken curry, aloo palak, methi paneer and garlic naan. Strongly flavored foods with lots of spices may taste delicious, but they can also lead to bad breath. Luckily, the restaurant offered pan mukhwas by the front door. Pan mukhwas is an assortment of fennel seeds and other Indian seeds. I asked the waiter more about it. He explained that not only do the seeds freshen breath, they can soothe an overfull stomach. I tried a handful. They tasted like black licorice. 1:30 p.m. Back in the office, I asked some friends if they’d be willing to check my breath. They politely declined. So I tried the spoon test. Scraping my tongue with a spoon, I admired the nice saliva sample I left on the plastic rim. Then I sniffed the spoon. I didn’t smell anything. Perhaps the pan mukhwas had worked. 3:30 p.m. At this point, it was time for a mid-afternoon snack. I prepared a plate of celery. Celery can ward off bad breath, because it’s fiber-rich and increases saliva production. Some people even call it nature’s dental floss! Unfortunately for my coworkers, there is no quiet way to munch celery. 4 p.m. I tested for bad breath again. At first, I tried the cheek-pulling method. I grabbed my cheeks and pulled them away, exposing my teeth. Then I pressed the pulled-back skin against my teeth. I tried this a few times and couldn’t smell anything. I wasn’t sure if it meant I had fresh breath or if I had a terrible sense of smell or if I wasn’t doing it right or if the technique just doesn’t work. I opted instead to place a cotton ball on the back of my tongue. But it stuck when I tried to pull it away, and I had to fish cotton from my mouth. The results, however, were fairly accurate. When I sniffed the cotton ball, it smelled like a combination of fennel seeds and celery. My breath was pretty fresh! 5 p.m. As I finished another mug-full of water, I marked on a piece of paper how much I’d consumed.  One cause of bad breath is dry mouth, so throughout the day, I’d drunk lots of water. By 5 p.m., I’d charted just shy of a gallon: about 115 ounces. 8 p.m. I finally arrived at 12 hours. Though it may have been subjective as to whether I’d maintained fresh breath all day, I hadn’t received any complaints, so I was willing to chalk that up as a win! Truth was, National 12-Hour Fresh Breath Day seemed more about the absence of bad breath than having breath that smelt pleasant. In either case, I felt like I was treating my smile healthily, which boosted my confidence. Of course, another culprit of bad breath is periodontal disease. I’d have to make sure to schedule a regular visit to my dentist!

The Effects of Stress on Your Smile

by MikeMeehan 12/7/2016 3:04 PM

It seems like stress is everywhere, especially as 2016 winds down. For many people, the holiday season promises higher levels of stress — shopping, decorating, baking, cleaning, entertaining…the list goes on. And this doesn’t even cover day-to-day stresses we may encounter at work and/or at home. Stress has a lot of negative effects on the body, from high blood pressure and cholesterol to heart disease. It’s also tough on the teeth. The Role of Stress on the Body To understand the role of stress on teeth, let’s start with the role of stress on the body. Stress is defined as “A state of mental or emotional strain resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.” This strain comes about when the brain perceives a threat. As the brain processes the threat, it decides one of three reactions: fight, flee or freeze. Once that decision is made, the pituitary gland releases adrenaline and cortisol into the system. Depending on the circumstances, the hormones might get released even if the body isn’t experiencing a real threat. Or the hormone might release continually. When this happens, it can have negative effects on the body, especially on teeth. Five Ways Stress Is Bad for Oral Health 1.     Stress increases risk for gum disease. Stress hurts the body’s ability to deal with infections, including gum disease. 2.    Stress makes us more susceptible to dental cavities. When we have more cortisol in our systems, our bodies produce acid. Our overall pH-balance influences our health. The scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 1 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. Ideally, we want a concentration between 7.35 and 7.45. Too much stress, however, leans us toward acidic. To compensate, the body draws minerals out of bones and teeth. Not only does stress automatically make our bodies more acidic, we tend to cope by increasing our use of products like caffeine, sugar and alcohol, which can affect our mood and sleep. Plus, sugar and alcohol can also contribute to tooth decay, and several caffeinated products can stain teeth. 3.    Stress can lead to bruxism. Higher levels of stress may cause you to clench or grind your teeth at night. This clenching or grinding is called bruxism. Symptoms could include waking up with a headache on a regular basis and experiencing tooth sensitivity, due to enamel rubbing off. If you are suffering from bruxism, you might want to wear a mouth guard when you go to sleep. 4.    Stress can cause temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD). The temporomandibular joint joins the jaw to the skull. TMJD also represents the muscles used to move the jaw. If you feel jaw joint pain or you catch your jaw popping or clicking, TMJD may be the cause. Depending on how severe it is, you might need to consult your dentist to relax your jaw muscles. If it’s not too severe, watch more funny movies, as laughter can relax muscles. 5.    Stress can cause canker sores. These small lesions form on the soft tissues inside your mouth. They are self-treatable, non-contagious and usually go away after two weeks.   Six Easy Steps to Alleviate Stress Nobody would say stress is good, but most people probably don’t realize just how devastating it can be. To alleviate stress, practice these six simple techniques. 1.     Sleep. Your body needs at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night. If you’re under a lot of stress, you may want to consider being more mindful of your bedtime. When the sun sets, put all technology away (computer, smartphone, TV) and focus on rest. 2.    Eat nutritiously. Remember what we said earlier about caffeine, sugar and alcohol — how it can make the body more acidic? A nutritious diet can alkalize your body and give you more energy. 3.    Exercise. Thirty minutes of consistent exercise a day can reduce blood pressure, improve heart health and put you in a better mood. 4.    Meditate. “If you are depressed, you live in the past,” said Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher. “If you are anxious, you live in the future. If you are happy, you live in the present.” Most stress, it appears, comes from living too much in the past or future. By meditating, you can begin to train your mind to focus on the present. 5.    Brush twice a day and floss daily. We’ve written before “You can’t spell overall without oral.” As in, oral health directly affects overall wellness. If stress is threatening your wellness, you can respond by maintaining a consistent brushing and flossing routine. 6.    Visit your dentist every six months. Don’t go through stress alone. By visiting your dentist, you’re more likely to catch some of these negative effects before they become bigger problems. While we’d all prefer to live in a stress-free world, it’s not always possible. By practicing these techniques, you can hopefully alleviate stress and maintain your beautiful smile.

Your Teeth and Methamphetamine — Why You Shouldn’t Test It, Even Once

by MikeMeehan 12/1/2016 2:44 PM

This goes without saying: Meth is bad for you. Unfortunately, in recent years, it seems to be gaining popularity. For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported 595,000 regular users in 2013, compared to 353,000 in 2010. Meth is a drug that stimulates the central nervous system. Some people use it because it can work as a euphoriant or aphrodisiac. It’s also highly addictive, which can lead to higher dosages and long-term abuse. When that happens, the long-term effects are many, according to NIDA: Addiction. Psychosis, including paranoia, hallucinations and repetitive motor activity. Changes in brain structure and function. Deficits in thinking and motor skills. Increased distractibility. Memory loss. Aggressive or violent behavior. Mood disturbances. Meth is also bad on teeth. In fact, it’s so bad that dentists have a word for it: meth mouth. Meth Mouth: A Massive Problem Meth mouth refers to severe tooth decay — teeth that are blackened, stained or rotting out. Teeth can be so worn down they break, fall out or have to be extracted. Meth causes other tooth problems, too, such as tooth fracture and acid erosion. Not only can this destroy a person’s smile, it can rob them of their ability to chew. According to the American Dental Association, an examination of the mouths of 571 methamphetamine users showed: 96% had cavities 58% had untreated tooth decay 31% had six or more missing teeth So why is meth so toxic to the mouth? Four Reasons Meth Really Messes Up the Mouth Meth is extremely acidic. One of the most popular methods of meth manufacturing is to fuse red phosphorus with hydroiodic acid. Other ingredients can include lye and battery acid. These are corrosive on enamel, causing it to flake off. Usually, the front teeth are the first to decay. The damage can work all the way down to the dental pulp. Dental pulp is just beneath the dentin of a tooth. Dentin is protected by enamel, and dental pulp by dentin. With damaged dental pulp, teeth stop receiving the moisture and nutrients they need. Damaged dental pulp can also lead to increased sensitivity. Meth causes extremely dry mouth. The clinical name for extremely dry mouth is xerostomia. Xerostomia is bad, because saliva contains enzymes that kill bacteria. When the mouth is extremely dry, it doesn’t produce saliva to kill bacteria, and bacteria can proliferate, causing tooth decay. Many users don’t maintain a healthy diet. While on meth, many people substitute sugary snacks and soda for normal healthy meals, according to the American Dental Association. Meth can cause users to clench their teeth. Prolonged use of meth can cause psychosis. This can lead to bruxism, also known as teeth grinding. Bruxism can wear down teeth. Black spots on teeth shouldn’t just indicate meth has led to a few cavities. They should reveal meth use has gone too far, and addiction has already taken hold. Don’t let meth destroy your smile. If you or a loved one is addicted to meth, seek help now. You can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or find treatment online.

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