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Browsing 5 posts in dry mouth.

Dry Mouth and a Taste of My Childhood

I remember when Bubble Yum bubble gum came out. Wikipedia says it was in 1975 and that feels about right. I remember commercials with a puppet that was trying to steal a kid’s Bubble Yum. 

I also remember the gum itself. It was the first “soft chewing” gum in memory. Before Bubble Yum, it was either sticks like Trident or rock hard little nubs like Bazooka. Bubble Yum made chewing gum more fun. It also had a ton of sugar in it. So much you could feel the little grains of sugar as you bit into it. It was glorious, but it promoted tooth decay. The rare times we were allowed candy (yep, my dad was a dentist) I usually chose grape Bubble Yum. It was one of the flavors that defined my childhood!

Fast forward about 40 years. My diet includes things that cause tooth decay. The saliva in my mouth is a natural defense mechanism of my teeth. Healthy levels of saliva can keep the acid that causes cavities in check. Sugary diet (2)

I’m not alone. I see lots of patients with decay problems. They have sugary diets, too. And many of them have a dry mouth as well. Any time a person takes more than one medication (which is very common) there is a high likelihood that their medications has induced dry mouth.

Dentistry has done a terrible job with dry mouth. We see it all the time. We can explain to our patients why they might experience it. But we don’t have much in the way of treatment for it. We can offer dry mouth rinses and toothpastes, but my patients that have tried them overwhelmingly feel like they don’t work very well. I don’t recommend that patients change their medications to treat blood pressure, depression or anything else. So mostly people just live with dry mouth.

arctic grapeI’ve found a solution that takes me back to my childhood. No, it’s not grape Bubble Yum. But it tastes and chews almost exactly the same. I’m here to tell you that Arctic Grape Ice Cubes gum is my suggestion for dry mouth. It’s as close to a perfect solution for dry mouth as I could invent.

  • It’s delicious. It tastes identical to the Bubble Yum I remember from the 70’s. Right down to the little grains of sugar. Except that it’s actually sugarless.
  • It really increases your saliva. Pop a couple of pieces in to chew and your mouth becomes flooded. It’s nothing short of amazing!
  • The flavor doesn’t last very long. After about 5 minutes the flavor is essentially gone. After the flavor is gone I recommend you throw it out. Gum chewing can actually be harmful to your muscles and TM joint if you do it for too long.
  • It’s sugarless. So even though it tastes really good, it won’t promote tooth decay. In fact, it’s flavored with xylitol which is known to inhibit acid production by the bacteria in your mouth in high doses. The amount of xylitol in this gum isn’t clinically proven to do that, but it’s still better than using sugar to sweeten the gum.

The best treatment I’ve found for dry mouth takes me back to my childhood. How cool is that?

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If you’re looking for a dentist in Saginaw, we’re always happy to accept new patients! You can request an appointment online or call the office at (989) 799-9133. And, as always, you can email me at alan@meadfamilydental.com. I always answer my own emails!

How long will this last?

So there I sit, next to my patient. I’ve removed their temporary crown and am getting ready to place our beautiful new porcelain crown. It’s finely adjusted and exquisitely polished. We’re ready to rock and roll. Then…the question.

“Doc, how long is this crown going to last?”
“How long do you think it should last?” I ask.
“I don’t know. For as much as it costs, it should probably last forever!”

I’ve had some variation of this conversation many times before. I’m asking the patient to spend a bunch of time and money for the work I’m placing. Why shouldn’t it last forever? Or at least a really long time?

In a perfect world, the dentistry that I place will last forever. In this same perfect world, you wouldn’t have to change the oil in your car. Or replace your roof. Or change the filter in your furnace. Or mow your lawn.

Actually, that crown we just placed would love to switch places with your roof. The conditions that your roof has to put up with are a cake walk compared to your crown. A little snow, wind and rain and some gradual temperature changes? Pffffft. Nothing to it!

Let’s do the math.

Let’s say you chew each bite of food 10 times before you swallow it. (A very conservative estimate, but it makes the math easier) Then let’s say each meal you eat has about 20 bites.

You just used that crown 200 times while you ate lunch. Multiply that by 3 meals and you’re working on 600 times per day. If you don’t eat snacks. And don’t even get me started on chewing gum!

So yeah, you use your teeth for chewing a lot. But most restorations will handle everyday chewing pretty handily. Leaving out the unpopped popcorn and olive pits, chewing isn’t the real problem. The real problem is the environment that we’re placing this crown in.

  • Your new crown will have to tolerate temperatures ranging from 150-170 degrees F (hot coffee) to 20-30 degrees F (ice cream). Sometimes within seconds of each other.
  • Most crowns will have to tolerate acid attacks throughout the day.
  • Your crown will be almost constantly covered with bacterial biofilm that resists efforts at removal.
  • Many crowns will find that their owners grind their teeth throughout the night while they are sleeping.
  • Some crowns will need to resist bad habits of their owners like ice chewing and lemons sucking.

The bottom line is, the mouth is a pretty tough place for this beautiful new crown to have to survive!

What’s a realistic estimate for a crown or filling to hold up? The unsatisfying answer: it really depends. In a person who avoids sweets and sodas, who takes exquisite care of their mouth (brushing and flossing), who doesn’t take any medications that might dry their mouth, who doesn’t grind their teeth at night and sees a dentist regularly in an effort to catch problems while they’re still small…you could easily see a restoration last for 15-20 years or longer. Regular wear and tear, even in the most “low risk” patients will probably do in any dental work placed if you live long enough.

How can you make your dental work last as long as possible?

  • Brush 2-3x a day with a soft bristled brush and floss once a day.
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless mints after meals to stimulate saliva flow. Preferably flavored with xylitol.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Avoid sugary foods and reduce between meal snacking.
  • Keep up with regular dental appointments. At least twice a year and more if you have risk factors like taking medications or having conditions that create a dry mouth.
  • If you have problems, get to the dentist for treatment right away!

So, back to my conversation with my patient.

“Doc, how long is this crown going to last?”
“How long do you think it should last?” I ask.
“I don’t know. For as much as it costs, it should probably last forever!”
“The only way I know how to make this crown last for that long is to store it in box. In a really safe place.”
“Um. O.K. Let’s just put it on the tooth and I’ll try to take care of it.”
“Alrighty then!”

Did you like this post? Would you like to share it with friends? You can click on the heart shaped icon next to the title of this post and automatically share it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+! Or you can leave a comment by clicking the “ballon” shaped button next to the title. Or send me an email at alan@meadfamilydental.com. I’m happy to answer any questions and appreciate your input! If your looking for a dentist in Saginaw, MI I’d like to help out!

reason to quit smoking #347: smoking leads to dry mouth

No-smoking

Everyone pretty much knows that smoking is bad for you and if you smoke you should quit.  When people think smoking they think of the 800 lb. gorillas of smoking related disease: cancer (lung, throat, other) and heart disease.  Not to take anything away from theses disease risks, but there’s some compelling research linking smoking to low saliva flow and/or dry mouth.

I’ve written about dry mouth before.  Dry mouth is a major risk factor for tooth decay.

If you smoke, you know you should quit.  So here’s one more reason!

Do you have questions or comments?  Feel free to email me at alan@meadfamilydental.com.  I’m happy to answer them!

Why so dry? Dry mouth and what you can do about it.

Dry  One of the main causes of tooth decay is dry mouth (also known as xerostomia) caused by low saliva flow.  The saliva in your mouth is your main natural defense against cavities and tooth decay.

What causes dry mouth?  There can be many causes but usually it's a combination of these:

  • medications
    • more than 400 medications have dry mouth as a side effect and the number keeps growing
    • blood pressure medications and antidepressant medications are known for their dry mouth side effects
  • disease
    •  Diabetes, HIV/AIDS and Sjogren's syndrome are known to reduce salivary flow significantly
  • cancer treatment
    • radiation therapy of the head and neck can damage the salivary glands reducing salivary flow to almost nothing 
    • chemotherapy drugs can cause saliva to become much thicker causing the mouth to feel uncomfortably dry
  • nerve damage
    • injury to the nerves of the head and neck can limit the signals going to the salivary glands which tell them to produce saliva 
  • diet
    • foods containing caffeine can reduce salivary flow
    • salty foods can make the mouth feel particularly dry 
  • tobacco use
    • the smoke from cigarettes has a drying effect in the mouth
    • the nicotine from tobacco reduces salivary flow 

What can you do about dry mouth?  Treatments are tailored to the cause of xerostomia when it can be diagnosed.  

  • xerostomia that's caused by a medication can sometimes be helped by changing the medication or changing the dosage.  This would need to be done by the prescribing physician.
  • for salivary glands that are damaged or not functioning completely there are some medications that can help stimulate salivary flow.
  • there are some salivary substitutes that can be helpful.
  • sleep with a humidifier
  • chew sugarless gum or mints (preferably sweetened with xylitol) to help stimulate salivary flow
  • sip on water throughout the day and particularly at meals
  • brush and floss regularly
  • don't smoke or chew tobacco (one more excellent reason not to!)

Dry mouth is very common.  Make sure to let your doctor and dentist know that you're experiencing it because there are things that can be done!  If you have dry mouth and are looking for some help feel free to drop me an email at alan@meadfamilydental.com or call the office at (989) 799-9133.  We'd be happy to help!

10 things you probably didn’t know about saliva/spit

Let’s face it…saliva gets no respect.  Most people think of it only as drool or slobber instead of the vital part of oral health that it truly is.  With that in mind…I give you “10 things you probably didn’t know about saliva/spit.”

10) Saliva is about 98% water.  The rest of saliva is made up of electrolytes, mucous and various enzymes.

9) Llamas often spit at attackers when they feel threated and will spit at each other to help establish their pecking order.

8 ) Chemical digestion of food begins in the mouth with the enzyme amylase, which is contained in the saliva.  Amylase breaks complex carbohydrates (starches) into smaller carbohydrates (sugars).  You might notice that potato can taste sweet as it’s being chewed and this is due to the action of amylase.

Saliva_7_120847) Saliva (pictured) is a rock band that formed in Memphis in 1996.  They are best known for their 2001 metal/hip hop crossover “Click Click Boom.”

6) The bacteria in human plaque turn the sugary foods that we eat into acid.  This acid, as well as acids from the foods we eat, can cause a drop in the pH of our mouths which is the cause of cavities in our teeth. Enzymes found in saliva help to neutralize these pH changes and maintain a healthy acid/base balance in our mouth.

5) Saliva contains many antibacterial compounds like lysozyme, lactoferrin and peroxidase.  There is some animal research that suggests that wounds licked with saliva heal faster than those that aren’t. These studies were not conducted in humans although it is interesting to note that wounds inside the mouth tend to heal much faster than those on skin (external to the mouth).

4) Saliva carries Calcium and Phosphate ions which help to reverse damage done on the tooth surface (“pre-cavities”)
by bacterial acids.

Dungeness Spit3) A spit is a kind of a land form or sand bar that develops when the direction of the shoreline turns inland or “reenters.”  This causes currents and waves to drop the sediment they are carrying and forms a kind of a depositional sand bar.  The largest spit in the U.S. is called the Dungeness Spit (pictured) and it is located in Sequim, WA.

2) Saliva serves to lubricate the lips, tongue, cheeks and other parts of the mouth.  If you’ve ever had a dry mouth you know that it can be hard to speak or swallow when you’re low on saliva.  Many people with certain illnesses or taking certain medications suffer from chronic dry mouth, called xerostomia, which puts them at greater risk for cavities and other dental problems.

1) A healthy human creates between .75 and 1.5 liters of saliva every day.  Salivary flow is reduced to almost zero during sleep which is one very good reason to brush and floss just prior to going to bed.

I hope this primer has given you a different perspective about saliva.  The next time you hold a drooling baby or notice your mouth water at some delicious aroma you can be thankful for it’s important role!

If you have any questions about this post or any other tooth/mouth related questions for that matter, drop me an email at alan@meadfamilydental.com.  I would be happy to reply or even better, I’d love you help you with all of your dental health needs!  Feel free to call and make an appointment at (989) 799-9133!