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.

More than Just a Piece of Thread: Choosing the Right Kind of Floss

by MikeMeehan 11/23/2016 2:49 PM

Flossing has come under fire recently. The U.S. Department of Health excluded a recommendation of floss in its latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans updates, claiming there’s not enough evidence flossing prevents gum disease or tooth decay. We, however, believe you should keep flossing. Flossing has been shown to reduce inflammation and bleeding of the gums, but only in short-term studies. The cost of a long-term study would take years and would cost a lot of money. Plus, there would be ethical ramifications from the non-floss group if flossing turned out to prevent long-term disease. While flossing may not have a whole slew of evidence in its favor, it is low-risk and doesn’t cost a lot. So we’ll keep recommending it. But choosing floss, believe it or not, can be complicated. You might ask, How is it complicated? It’s just a piece of thread. Floss is more than just a piece of thread. Consider these factors when determining which floss is right for you. Three Types of Floss Before you can determine specific preferences, you first have to decide between three types of floss: Nylon floss Monofilament floss Dental tape If you aren’t sure which one you use, it’s probably nylon floss. Nylon floss is the most common. But, in some circumstances, you might consider a different type. Drop the nylon floss if: Your flossing experience often involves the floss ripping or tearing. Nothing can be more annoying than having to unravel a new strand of floss from the spool because your strand snapped in two halfway through flossing. If this is a frequent occurrence, you may want to consider monofilament floss. It’s made of either rubber, plastic, or polytetrafluoroethylene — not fabric, like nylon — so it doesn’t shred as easy. You have a lot of bridgework or wide gaps between your teeth. In these cases, you may want to consider dental tape. Dental tape is wider and flatter than nylon tape, so it can more effectively clean out spaces between teeth.   If these aren’t concerns for you, nylon floss is a little cheaper. After choosing which type of floss, you still have another decision to make. Wax On or Wax Off? Should you buy waxed floss or unwaxed? Well, both will do the trick. And, when weighing pros against cons, some of the pros are subjective. For example, one camp claims waxed floss is easier to slide between crowded teeth, due to the wax coating on the nylon. The other camp, however, cites unwaxed floss as being easier to maneuver, due to its being thinner than waxed floss. Some qualities to consider when purchasing floss include: Waxed floss is more flavorful. Let’s face it: When flossing tastes good, you’re more likely to make it a part of your routine. The same goes for your children: If bubblegum flavored floss works as an incentive for them, then waxed floss is probably the way to go. This could also be just as much incentive to go with unwaxed. If you’re pregnant, for example, the flavor could trigger nausea. Unwaxed floss squeaks against clean teeth. Unwaxed floss will squeak against clean teeth, signaling to you plaque has been removed. Most waxed floss is coated in Teflon. Teflon is a tough synthetic resin made by polymerizing polytetrafluoroethylene, also known as the stuff used on non-stick cookware. Some people claim Teflon can be toxic to the body and can cause health issues like certain types of cancer. The American Cancer Society, however, does not suspect it of causing cancer. Once you’ve figured out what type of floss works best for you, you might have one more option to consider. Flossing tools Depending on your circumstances, you might need certain flossing tools. Floss holder For example, if you can’t wrap floss around your fingers, or if you have to floss for a parent or child, you may want to consider a Y- or U-shaped floss holder. Rather than thread a strand of floss between two fingers, you can use a pre-threaded device for farther reach or easier maneuverability. Floss threader Or you may want to consider a floss threader. A floss threader comes in handy if you have wide gaps between your teeth or if you have a child with braces. The threader is a flexible piece of plastic with a loop at one end. For braces, link a strand of floss to the loop, then slide the pointed end of the threader through the bridgework of the braces until the linked strand of floss has access to the tooth. Five Steps to Better Flossing While it’s a good idea to find the right floss for you, what’s more valuable is flossing the right way. Flossing, like brushing, should take about two minutes and incorporate these five steps: 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. Flossing may be under fire by some, but it is another tactic for removing plaque buildup on teeth. So, by using the right kind of floss, coupled with the right technique, you can expect results.

Music to the Teeth: How to Play Your Best while Protecting Your Pearly Whites

by MikeMeehan 11/10/2016 3:51 PM

Playing an instrument has plenty of benefits. It can stave off dementia. It can improve literacy in developing brains. And it fosters creativity. Music may be the language of the soul, but some instruments might not be the best on your teeth. Obviously, guitar and piano aren’t going to have a negative effect on your teeth (At least we hope you aren’t playing them with your teeth!). But some woodwind instruments (like clarinet, saxophone and harmonica) and brass instruments (like trumpet) could cause issues. For example, in jazz, when some trumpeters retire, musicians refer to them with “He lost his lip.” Because so much of playing uses the lip, improper technique can hinder you from your full potential. It can also cause problems to your teeth. In some instances, players have ended up with gaps in their teeth, as well as teeth pointing outward. Generally, these problems have a root cause. A Technique that Can Be Dangerous to Your Teeth When it comes to brass and woodwind instruments, you practice embouchure. Embouchure considers what you do with your mouth and tongue when you bring the mouthpiece to your face. Improper embouchure can lead you to clamp down on the mouthpiece. This is problematic for three reasons: It can cause your teeth to shift. For a similar reason to why braces straighten crooked teeth, clamping on the mouthpiece can shift straight teeth. In the case of braces, wiring applies pressure to the teeth, which straightens them over time. But with the mouthpiece, undue pressure is being placed on a few bottom teeth. Over time, those teeth can shift. You produce more saliva. Producing saliva isn’t a bad thing. In fact, the only time people say bad things about saliva is when not enough is produced, as this can lead to bad breath. Saliva is produced when we chew. The harder we chew, the more saliva we produce. With an instrument, the “chewing” happens on a mouthpiece, which is a non-food item. We’ve written about how chewing on a non-food item is bad for teeth. In regard to saliva, saliva can be rough on your instrument, as it can build up and cause pads or reeds to stick. The tone will be inconsistent. You might inadvertently hit more flat or sharp notes, or you won’t be able to keep the volume at a consistent level, or you won’t be able to hold out notes for as long as you’d like. Are You Making this Mistake? Why might you clamp down on your instrument’s mouthpiece? Well, it depends on which musician you ask. Some will say the problem is you aren’t resting enough. As a result, your lips become weak, because they’re pursed to the mouthpiece for too long, and you clamp down. Others say you’re exerting too much pressure to hit the notes. Musicians have a tendency to clamp down when they have to hit high notes. Whatever the case, the issue hearkens back to an old saying: Less is more. If you aren’t sure if you’re applying too much pressure, ask yourself the following questions. After you finish playing… Do you have a ring on your lips from the mouthpiece? Do your teeth ache? Do your lips feel numb? Are your lips swollen? If any of these are true for you, the pressure might be too much. But a couple of solutions are available: A Couple of Solutions to Push Off the Pressure Perfect your embouchure. It’s all about how you use your facial muscles and shape your lips to the mouthpiece of the instrument. Use an athletic mouth guard. You might benefit from using the bottom half of a mouth guard. You could also use a denture pad or dental wax. If you use a denture pad, you’ll need to change it regularly, as a lot of disgusting buildup can occur if you don’t.   It’s a good idea to take your oral health into account when you play. And good oral health can also keep your instrument in good shape for longer. Three Ways Good Oral Health Can Keep Your Instrument in Good Shape Brush your teeth before playing to avoid food particles in the reeds. If you practice multiple times a day, don’t over-brush. Rinsing your mouth out works just as effectively. You’ll especially want to brush/rinse if you’ve had something sugary. Sugar and saliva make a sticky combination that can cause a lot of damage to your instrument. For this reason, if you’re out playing a gig, you might want to avoid Grandpa’s “ol’ cough medicine” before the show, as drinks like beer and whisky contain malt sugar. Maybe stick with water with lemon instead. Wait 30 minutes after eating before playing to neutralize your mouth’s pH levels. This in effect renders your saliva a lot less volatile on the reeds. You can also rinse your mouth with mouthwash to loosen particles on the teeth. Don’t close your instrument case immediately after playing to allow remaining moisture to dry. This doesn’t have to do with your oral health per se. But depending on what instrument you’re playing, you might have a cleanup routine. For example, you’ll want to swab a saxophone, tap out the saliva from a harmonica and empty the spit valve on a trumpet. Even if you clean your instrument thoroughly afterward, a little moisture will remain. By putting your instrument in a case and shutting it, the moisture might cause damage to the reeds.     Playing music has a lot of benefits. And with the recent observation of National Saxophone Day, we don’t want to downplay those benefits. So keep playing and practice good oral health, for your and your instrument’s sakes!

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