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Xylitol: A significant factor for improving your oral health

April 29th, 2016

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener found in tree bark, plants, fruits, and vegetables. The human body also produces it in small amounts. It looks and tastes like sugar, so as part of a health regimen, most people require no willpower to use it.

Xylitol is safe (approved by the World Health Organization) because only a small amount is needed for health benefits. With a glycemic index of seven, it is safe for diabetics. It has less than three calories per gram and 40% fewer calories than other carbohydrates. If eaten in extremely large amounts too quickly, it has a laxative effect in humans.

Tooth decay happens when bacteria in your mouth consume the sugars you eat. When you eat food that contains ordinary sugar, it gives energy to the bacteria on your teeth, allowing them to multiply and start making acids that destroy the enamel on the teeth.

Since xylitol is a natural sweetener derived from the fibrous parts of plants, it does not break down like sugar, so it helps maintain a neutral pH level in the mouth. Xylitol also prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth because they are unable to digest it. That is how it protects the teeth from cavities.

With xylitol, the acid attack is diminished. With less bacteria and acid, your teeth stay healthier. The frequency of xylitol ingestion is important: aim for five grams a day, or one gram every three hours.

Studies of xylitol use as either a sugar substitute or a small dietary addition have demonstrated a dramatic reduction in new cavities. It has also stopped and even reversed some existing cavities. This effect is long lasting and possibly permanent. Low cavity rates persist even years after the trials have been completed.

Xylitol needs to be one of the first ingredients in a product to be effective. It is convenient and easy to use. You can find it in health food stores and specialty grocery stores. Xylitol can be delivered to your teeth in chewing gum, tablets, or even candy and mints.

It also comes in toothpaste, mouth rinse, baby oral wipes, gel and pacifiers, nasal wash, dry mouth spray, a granulated form for cooking, granulated packets to add to drinks, and commercially prepared foods. It can replace sugar on a one-to-one ratio.

Sweet rewards in xylitol are good for the body and the teeth! If you have specific questions please feel free to contact R. Scott Smith Orthodontics. We look forward to seeing you soon!

TMD Problems and How You Can Prevent Them

April 22nd, 2016

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) describe a set of conditions that involve trouble with your jaw and face muscles. They result from a problem in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is a hinge that connects the temporal bones, in your skull in front of each ear, to your jaw. The joint enables you to talk, yawn, and chew by letting your mouth move.

TMD can be very painful and interfere with functions such as eating and speaking. This what to watch for and how to try to prevent TMD.

Risk Factors for TMD

You are at higher risk for TMD if you are a women than if you are male. The disorder is most common among adults between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Other risk factors for TMJ disorders include the following.

  • Arthritis in the area, making movement more difficult
  • Excessive tooth grinding, because it increases stress on the joint
  • General stress, which can lead you to clench your teeth and strain facial muscles

Symptoms of TMD

Symptoms of TMD can last for just a short while, or for several years. Seeing Dr. Scott Smith is important if your symptoms make it impossible for you to eat regularly or if you have unbearable pain or discomfort. The following symptoms can occur on both or one side of your face.

  • Aching or very tired facial muscles
  • Jaws that are fixed open or shut without you being able to unlock them
  • Grating or popping sounds when you chew or close or open your mouth
  • Pain in the entire area, including the mouth, jaw, neck, or shoulders, that comes on when you chew or yawn

Preventing TMD

You can try to prevent TMD by focusing on reducing risk factors. If you grind your teeth at night, ask Dr. Scott Smith about wearing a mouthguard. If you are overly stressed, look into ways to better manage your stress and relax your muscles. Another strategy for trying to prevent the development of TMD is to avoid chewing gum, since that puts stress on your jaw.

If you have questions about TMD, don’t hesitate to contact our Springfield, MA office.

To use or not to use mouthwash; that is the question

April 15th, 2016

A famous mouthwash company chose the marketing slogan, “Better than flossing.” As a consumer, would you believe a high-end commercial that essentially tells you to stop flossing? Just use this brand of mouthwash and the risk of gingivitis, cavities, etc., is gone. What a wonderful idea! Now for the reality: This is simply not true.

The company that made these claims received some negative feedback for making this false claim. Does this mean that all mouthwashes are ineffective? Absolutely not. It takes a little bit of research to know which mouthwashes are most effective and best suited for you. Here are some key points to remember when choosing a mouthwash.

First, think about why you want to use a mouthwash. If you are at high risk for cavities, you would benefit from a fluoride mouthwash. Check the labels to see which ones contain fluoride.

If you have active gingivitis, a mouthwash with some antibacterial properties would be preferable. Read the labels carefully. You do not want a mouthwash containing alcohol. If you have active periodontal disease, an antibacterial mouthwash is appropriate, though you may want to discuss which kind would be best for your individual needs.

Prescription mouthwashes are also an option. You should pay close attention to the directions, such as how much and how long to use them. There is one brand in particular whose effectiveness can steadily diminish if you use it continually. There can also be side effects you should discuss with our office and/or your pharmacist.

Some great mouthwashes for kids change the color of plaque on their teeth to help them see how they are doing with their brushing. This is a great learning tool for the child and the parent! Why not pick up a bottle for yourself next time you’re at the store and evaluate your own performance?

Beware of claims that a mouthwash can loosen plaque. This is not accurate. Beware of any mouthwash that has alcohol. This is worth mentioning twice. Take care of your taste buds. If you are using a strong mouthwash, it can reduce your sense of taste.

These tips should help you choose the right mouthwash for your needs. Please contact Dr. Scott Smith at our Springfield, MA office with any specific questions!

Which type of mouthwash is best?

April 8th, 2016

Taking care of your oral health involves a daily regimen of brushing, flossing, and rinsing to prevent tooth decay and bacterial infections. Though you may have asked us which toothbrush to use, few patients at R. Scott Smith Orthodontics ask about mouthwash.

However, different mouthwashes you might choose will have varying effects on your oral health. So which type is best for you?

Gum Health

Antiseptic mouthwashes are designed to reduce the majority of bacteria on and near the gum line. Using an antiseptic mouthwash can help decrease your chances of developing gingivitis. If possible, look for a mouthwash with antibacterial or antimicrobial ingredients.

Fluoride

Fluoride is beneficial for oral health and can help prevent tooth decay. If you drink a lot of bottled water without fluoride, we may recommend that you purchase a rinse with fluoride in it.

Bad Breath

Although mouthwash is designed to prevent bacterial build-up within the mouth, many people use it to combat bad breath. Most mouthwashes will help eliminate the bacteria that cause bad breath, and some are specifically designed to do so.

However, if bad breath is a chronic problem that requires daily treatment with a mouth rinse, contact R. Scott Smith Orthodontics to discuss your symptoms.

American Dental Association Approval

The ADA reviews mouth rinses for safety and effectiveness. A mouthwash with the ADA Seal of Approval will meet strict criteria, and will have scientific evidence or clinical studies that support the claims of the manufacturer. If possible, select a mouthwash that bears the ADA Seal of Approval to ensure you are using a quality rinse.

Considerations

If you are unsure as to which mouthwash is right for you, contact our Springfield, MA office or ask Dr. Scott Smith during your next visit. Also, be sure to keep mouthwash out of the reach of children, as it contains alcohol and other substances that could be harmful to them. Avoid letting children under age six use a mouth rinse, and discontinue use if you experience a burning sensation in the soft tissues of your mouth.

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