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


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  I’m happy to answer them!

A groovy video

I was recently searching on Youtube for a video that explains tooth grooves well.  I came across this one.  It's not a bad description, but I think it gets the whole "sealant" concept wrong.  

I almost never place a sealant any more.  I've replaced way too many of them that have a hidden (but large!) cavity underneath them.  The problem is that often the deep and bacteria-laden groove is still there.  I've told a lot of patients that they have "groovy" teeth.  Unfortunately for those who watch Brady Bunch reruns I don't mean "really cool" or "incredibly hip" when I'm referring to groovy teeth.  I mean that these deep grooves make for greater risk of cavities and other dental troubles.  

Keep checking back to for more discussion about risk factors for tooth decay and what you can do about them!  It's going to be my main focus in 2011!

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  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!


Have you ever felt your back teeth with your tongue?  They’re kind of lumpy.  And between each of these lumps are grooves.  These grooves, called “developmental grooves,” can be shallow but are often deep in lots many teeth.  By deep I mean, uncleanable with your tooth brush.  People with deep grooves are at greater risk for cavities by no fault of their own. Even worse, these deep grooves are areas of the tooth that haven’t completely formed, which communicate with the deeper, softer parts of the tooth. They can become like giant highways for acid producing bacteria!

So what can you do?  I often recommend a restoration that I like to call a “groovectomy.”  We “remove the groove” in an effort to reduce the patient’s risk for cavities.

I was taught in dental school that grooves sometimes hold stain but don’t always need to be treated.  Experience has made me more skeptical.  This stained groove was “talking to me.”  Suspicious groove
Do you have deep grooves or shallow grooves?  Make an appointment to see us and we’ll let you know!

What’s a cavity?

Imagine that you’ve just had your teeth cleaned. The hygienist steps out to get the doctor who’s going to come in and take a look. You hold your breath and cross your fingers hoping against hope that he doesn’t find any "cavities."

Has anyone ever explained to you what a cavity is, exactly? The simple answer is that a cavity is a hole in your tooth. Kind of like someone took a jackhammer to a concrete driveway and put a hole in it, right?

A better answer is that it’s irreversible evidence of tooth decay.

I think of it like my gravel driveway. When we first moved in it was nice and smooth. But then it was exposed to wave after wave of Michigan weather. Heavy thunderstorms, weeks of hot and dry summers and entire seasons of snowplowing. After a couple years of this we’ve got some potholes now.

Gravel_road_blog_2 These potholes are like cavities. They’re the evidence of our Michigan weather on my gravel driveway. No one came in with a jackhammer and put those potholes in, they happened due to weather conditions, driving up and down our driveway and the fact that I haven’t added any gravel over time. Unfortunately, these potholes won’t fix themselves! Cavities are the same way, once the smooth surface of our teeth has been broken down, the teeth can’t repair themselves and they need help. Unlike my driveway, we won’t need a shovel and wheelbarrow to fix them!

The trick to avoiding cavities is to control the "harsh weather" in our mouths along with upgrading our potholed driveways to asphalt or concrete. I’m afraid that moving to Florida won’t help either! More about that in a later post!

If you have any questions or comments about this blog or would like me to write about your dental questions feel free to email me at or leave a comment at the end of the post!

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