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Posts for tag: nutrition

3ThingsYouCanDotoKeepHolidaySweetsFromInterferingWithYourDentalHealth

In his iconic poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," Clement Moore wrote of children sleeping "while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads." Indeed, sweet treats are still interwoven into the holidays—and a prime reason why we tend to put on pounds during the season. It may also be why your next dental visit might come with some unpleasant news.

The starring actors in much of traditional holiday snacking and feasting are naturally-occurring or added sugars. Carbohydrates like refined sugar in particular can dramatically affect your dental health if you over-consume them, because they can feed the bacteria that causes both tooth decay and gum disease.

There are ways, though, to reduce their impact on your teeth and gums. You can, of course, go "cold turkey" and cut refined sugar out completely, as well as curtail other carbohydrates like refined flours and fruit. It's effective, but not much fun—and what are the holidays without fun?

More in line with "moderation in all things," there are other ways to minimize the impact of carbohydrates on your teeth and gums during the holiday season. Here are a few of them.

Limit refined sugar. While you and your family may not be up for banning sugar during the holidays, you can reduce it significantly. For instance, prepare more savory items rather than the sweeter kinds. If you must go for sweet, opt for naturally occurring sugars in fruit or dairy rather than refined table sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Eat sweet treats with meals. Constant snacking often comes with the holiday season. And, why not—all those abundant goodies are just begging to be eaten. But noshing all the time never allows your mouth's saliva, which neutralizes the enamel-eroding acid produced by the bacteria fueled by sugar, a chance to finish its buffering. Instead, try as much as possible to limit treats to mealtimes.

Use different sweeteners. There are a number of alternative sweeteners to regular sugar, both natural and artificial. Some work better in baked goods, while others are more suitable for candies or beverages. Xylitol in particular, a sugar alcohol, actually discourages oral bacterial growth. You can also use natural sweetening agents like stevia or erythritol to help reduce refined sugar in your treats.

Even if you normally limit carbohydrates, it's understandable if their consumption rises during the holidays. That's why it's important you don't neglect daily brushing and flossing to help control bacterial plaque, the main driver for dental disease. Both effective oral hygiene and reining in the sweets will help your teeth and gums sail through the holidays into the new year.

If you would like more information about protecting your oral health during the holidays, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Bitter Truth About Sugar.”

By Dr. Mark C. Pothitakis
November 23, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: nutrition   gum disease  
CurbYourCarbConsumptiontoBoostYourDefensesAgainstGumDisease

You're doing the right things to avoid the return of gum disease: brushing and flossing every day, dental visits on a regular basis and watching for symptoms of another infection. But while you're at it, don't forget this other important part of gum disease prevention—your diet.

In relation to oral health, not all foods are alike. Some can increase inflammation, a major factor with gum disease; others strengthen teeth and gums. Carbohydrates in particular are a key part of this dynamic.

The body transforms these biomolecules of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen into the sugar glucose as a ready source of energy. But glucose levels in the bloodstream must be strictly controlled to avoid a harmful imbalance.

When elevated the body injects the hormone insulin into the bloodstream to bring glucose levels into normal range. Eventually, though, regular injections of insulin in high amounts in response to eating carbs—known as "spikes"—can increase inflammation. And, inflammation in turn increases the risk and severity of gum infections.

So, why not cut out carbohydrates altogether? That might be akin to throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water. A wide range of carbohydrates, particularly fruits and vegetables, are a rich source of health-enhancing nutrients.

It's better to manage your carbohydrate consumption by taking advantage of one particular characteristic: Not all carbohydrates affect the body in the same way. Some cause a higher insulin response than others according to a scale known as the glycemic index. It's better, then, to eat more of the lower glycemic carbohydrates than those at the higher end.

One of the latter you'll definitely want to restrict is refined sugar—which also happens to be a primary food source for bacteria. You'll also want to cut back on any refined or processed foods like chips, refined grains or pastries.

Conversely, you can eat more of a number of low glycemic foods, most characterized as "whole", or unprocessed, like fresh fruits and vegetables, or whole grains like oatmeal. You should still, however, eat these in moderation.

Better control over your carbohydrate consumption is good for your health overall. But it's especially helpful to your efforts to keep gum disease at bay.

If you would like more information on nutrition and your oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Carbohydrates Linked to Gum Disease.”

By Dr. Mark C. Pothitakis
October 09, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
HereIsWhatYouCanDotoHelpYourKidsSnackHealthieratSchool

In addition to daily oral hygiene and regular dental visits, a tooth-friendly diet can boost your kid's dental health and development. You can help by setting high standards for eating only nutritious foods and snacks at home.

But what happens when they're not home—when they're at school? Although public schools follow the Smarts Snacks in Schools initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, those guidelines only recommend minimum nutritional standards for foods and snacks offered on campus. Many dentists, though, don't believe they go far enough to support dental health.

Besides that, your kids may have access to another snack source: their peers. Indeed, some of their classmates' snacks may be high in sugar and not conducive to good dental health. Your kids may face a strong temptation to barter their healthy snacks for their classmates' less than ideal offerings.

So, what can you as a parent do to make sure your kids are eating snacks that benefit their dental health while at school? For one thing, get involved as an advocate for snacks and other food items offered by the school that exceed the USDA's minimum nutritional standards. The better those snacks available through vending machines or the cafeteria are in nutritional value, the better for healthy teeth and gums.

On the home front, work to instill eating habits that major on great, nutritional snacks and foods. Part of that is helping your kids understand the difference in foods: some are conducive to health (including for their teeth and gums) while others aren't. Teach them that healthier foods should make up the vast majority of what they eat, while less healthier choices should be limited or avoided altogether.

Doing that is easier if you take a creative, playful approach to the snacks you send with them to school. For example, if you send them to school with their own snacks, add a little excitement like cinnamon-flavored popcorn or cheese and whole wheat bread bites in different shapes. And make it easier for them with bite-sized snacks like grapes, baby carrots or nuts.

You can't always control what snacks your kids eat, especially at school. But following these tips, you may be able to influence them in the right direction.

If you would like more information on helping your child develop tooth-friendly snacking habits, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Snacking at School.”

By Dr. Mark C. Pothitakis
June 26, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
RefinedSugarCouldBeHarmingMoreThanYourTeeth

You've probably heard your dentist say more than once to cut back on sweets. That's good advice not only for keeping your teeth healthy, but your whole body as well.

As a carbohydrate, a macronutrient that helps supply energy to the body's cells, sugar is prevalent naturally in many foods, particularly fruits and dairy. The form of which we're most concerned, though, is refined sugar added to candy, pastries and other processed foods.

Believe it or not, three out of four of the 600,000 food items on supermarket shelves contain refined sugar, often hiding under names like "high fructose corn syrup" or "evaporated cane syrup." So-called healthy foods with labels like "low fat" or "diet" have added sugar and chemicals to replace the taste of fat they've removed.

But perhaps the biggest sugar sources in the average U.S. diet are sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks. With the added volume of sugar in processed foods, the growing consumption of sweetened beverages has pushed the average American's sugar intake to nearly 20 teaspoons a day—more than three times the recommended daily allowance.

And right along with the increased consumption of sugar, cases of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other systemic diseases have likewise risen. And, yes, preventable tooth decay continues to be a problem, especially in children, with sugar a major contributing factor in the prevalence of cavities.

So, what can you do to keep your daily sugar intake within healthy bounds?

  • Check ingredient labels on packaged food for added sugar, chemicals or preservatives. If it contains sugar or "scientific"-sounding ingredients, leave it on the shelf.
  • Be wary of health claims on food packaging. "Low fat," for example, is usually an indicator of added sugar.
  • Drink water or unsweetened beverages instead of sodas, sports drinks or even juices. Doing so will vastly lower your daily intake of sugar.

A healthy diet with much less sugar and regular exercise will help you stay healthy. And with a lower risk for tooth decay, your teeth will also reap the benefits.

If you would like more information on the effects of sugar on your oral and general health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Bitter Truth About Sugar.”

By Dr. Mark C. Pothitakis
December 05, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
KeepaLidonSugarThisHolidayforHealthierTeethandGums

During this time of year, many of us dust off traditional family recipes and make our favorite holiday treats. There is, however, a small price to pay for all that nostalgic goodness in the shape of a few extra pounds to deal with in the new year. We may also be increasing the risk for something even more unpleasant: tooth decay.

The main cause, of course, is a certain carbohydrate integral to many holiday goodies: sugar.  We humans love it, but so do oral bacteria that readily devour any sugar lingering in our mouth after eating. This fuels bacterial reproduction, which in turn increases the production of acid that softens tooth enamel.

There are a number of strategies you can follow to reduce this effect. You can remove sugar completely from your holiday preparations—and risk family and friends “voting you off the island.” Or, you can try these tips for easing the impact of holiday sugar on your dental health.

Look for ways to reduce sugar. Just because you're not throwing the sugar bowl out the window doesn't mean you have to go all out using it. Instead, try to modify older recipes (or look for newer versions) to decrease the amount of sugar in candies and baked goods. You may also consider alternative sweeteners like sucralose that tolerate high baking temperatures.

Balance savory with sweet. Not all holiday treats need to be sweet—you can add items that take advantage of more savory seasonings. For example, try offering up popcorn with a sprinkling of cinnamon or other holiday spice, or a creative assortment of cheeses (which in turn promote saliva flow to neutralize acid).

Combine treats with mealtimes. Continuous snacking may be part of the holiday tradition, but it can also raise the risk for tooth decay. Acidity increases when we eat, but saliva normally neutralizes it within thirty minutes to an hour. However, saliva can get overwhelmed during continuous snacking, resulting in longer periods of high acidity that damages tooth enamel. Instead, try to combine snack times with mealtimes.

Don't neglect your oral hygiene. Even though things can get hectic during the holidays, make a point of keeping up daily brushing and flossing. Regular hygiene keeps dental plaque, a thin film of harmful bacteria and food particles (including sugar), from building up on your teeth. Reducing plaque lowers your overall decay risk. Attention to oral health through your day-to-day dental hygiene routine along with regular professional cleanings and checkups is the best thing you can do to avoid dental disease.

The holidays should be a joyous time for you and your family. They can also be a healthy time for your teeth and gums, if you minimize the role of sugar in your holiday treats.

If you would like more information about boosting your dental health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Nutrition & Oral Health” and “The Bitter Truth About Sugar.”