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Make this the Year You Stop Smoking

January 4th, 2023

It’s a new year, and it couldn’t come fast enough for many of us! Let’s do our part to make this a better year in every way—and you can start by making this the year you quit smoking once and for all.

You know that smoking is very damaging to your body. Smokers are more likely to suffer from lung disease, heart attacks, and strokes. You’re at greater risk for cancer, high blood pressure, blood clots, and blood vessel disorders. With far-reaching consequences like this, it’s no surprise that your oral health suffers when you smoke as well.

How does smoking affect your teeth and mouth?

  • Appearance

While this is possibly the least harmful side effect of smoking, it’s a very visible one. Tar and nicotine start staining teeth right away. After months and years of smoking, your teeth can take on an unappealing dark yellow, orange, or brown color. Tobacco staining might require professional whitening treatments because it penetrates the enamel over time.

  • Plaque and Tartar

Bacterial plaque and tartar cause cavities and gum disease, and smokers suffer from plaque and tartar buildup more than non-smokers do. Tartar, hardened plaque that can only be removed by a dental professional, is especially hard on delicate gum tissue.

  • Bad Breath

The chemicals in cigarettes linger on the surfaces of your mouth causing an unpleasant odor, but that’s not the only source of smoker’s breath. Smoking also dries out the mouth, and, without the normal flow of saliva to wash away food particles and bacteria, bad breath results. Another common cause of bad breath? Gum disease, which is also found more frequently among smokers.

  • Gum Disease

Smoking has been linked to greater numbers of harmful oral bacteria in the mouth and a greater risk of gingivitis (early gum disease). Periodontitis, or severe gum disease, is much more common among smokers, and can lead to bone and tooth loss. Unsurprisingly, tooth loss is also more common among smokers.  

  • Implant Failure

Tooth implants look and function like our original teeth, and are one of the best solutions for tooth loss. While implant failure isn’t common, it does occur significantly more often among smokers. Studies suggest that there are multiple factors at work, which may include a smoker’s bone quality and density, gum tissue affected by constricted blood vessels, and compromised healing.

  • Healing Ability

Smoking has been linked to weakened immune systems, so it’s harder to fight off an infection and to heal after an injury. Because smoking affects the immune system’s response to inflammation and infection, smokers suffering from gum disease don’t respond as well to treatment. Smokers experience a higher rate of root infections, and smoking also slows the healing process after oral surgeries or trauma.

  • Dry Socket

Smoking following a tooth extraction can cause a painful condition called “dry socket.” After extraction, a clot forms to protect the tooth socket. Just as this clot can be dislodged by sucking through a straw or spitting, it can also be dislodged by the force of inhaling and exhaling while smoking.

  • Oral Cancer

Research has shown again and again that smoking is the single most serious risk factor for oral cancer. Studies have also shown that you reduce your risk of oral cancer significantly when you quit smoking.

Quitting smoking is a major accomplishment that will improve your life on every level. It’s always a good idea to talk to Dr. Jason P. Tosto for strategies to help you achieve your wellness goals for the new year. Make this the year you stop smoking, and the year your health improves in countless ways because you did.

Resolving to Eat Better in the New Year

December 28th, 2022

It’s a new year, and a resolution found on many lists is learning to be more mindful about healthy food choices. You might have set some of these goals yourself. Gaining, losing, or maintaining your current weight. More fruits and veggies. Better proteins. Less sugar. Fewer carbs. You want to make this new year your healthiest year yet.

And while you’re making your new and improved shopping list, don’t forget your oral health! Because while brushing and flossing are extremely important, your diet can also have very real benefits for your teeth and gums.

Stronger Teeth and Jaws

We often talk about teeth and bones together, and that’s natural. Calcium and phosphorus, as well as other minerals, make them the strongest parts of our bodies. When teeth lose mineral strength, they are more vulnerable to cavities, and bone loss in the jaw can cause loose or even lost teeth.

Making sure you get the recommended daily amount of the minerals and vitamins you need will help sustain and repair both teeth and bones. A diet rich in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D helps build strong bones and promotes bone density. While your teeth can’t create new enamel, minerals that are eroded by acids from plaque and acidic foods can be restored, or remineralized, with the calcium and phosphates in saliva.

  • Calcium

Strong teeth and bones need calcium. More than 99% of the calcium in our bodies is located in our teeth and bones. How to make sure we get enough?

Dairy products are the traditional answer. Several servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt each day supply most of our needs. If you can’t eat dairy, though, calcium is also found in other foods, such as salmon, sardines, many dark leafy vegetables, and fortified juices, tofu, and cereals.

  • Phosphorus

Calcium gets most of the attention when it comes to creating strong teeth and bones, but it’s not a solo act. We need phosphorus to make full use of the calcium in our diets.

Proteins like meat, fish, and poultry are good sources of phosphorus, as are beans, nuts, whole grains and dairy.

  • Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a diet essential because it enables us to absorb the calcium and phosphorus that keep teeth and bones strong.

Most dairy and many other foods are fortified with vitamin D, such as cow’s milk, soymilk, orange juice, and cereals. Egg yolks and fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and herring, are also a rich natural source of the vitamin.

Healthy Gums

Gum disease is more than just a nuisance. Left untreated, gingivitis (early gum disease) can become periodontitis (serious gum disease). Periodontitis can cause infection, loose teeth, and tooth and bone loss.

Brushing and flossing promote gum health and help prevent gum disease, but your diet plays an important role, too.  

  • Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for the health and healing of mucous membranes, including gum tissue and the soft membranes in the mouth.

You can get this vitamin directly from animal products such as dairy foods and meats, or it can be formed in the body from beta-carotenes. Think orange when you hit the produce aisle, because foods such as carrots, peppers, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta-carotenes.

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the so-called “essential nutrients.” These are the nutrients that are necessary for our bodies to function properly, and which can only be supplied in our diets. Vitamin C is vital for healthy gums and soft tissue—in fact, one sign that your diet is deficient in vitamin C is inflamed and bleeding gums.

Citrus fruits, those oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and all their cousins, are a wonderful source of vitamin C, but you have many other flavorful options. Fruits such as kiwis, mangos, papayas, and strawberries are rich in vitamin C. Step over to the vegetable aisle to load up on red peppers, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli—all of which contain more vitamin C per serving than a medium orange!

Fewer Cavities

Plaque thrives on a diet of sugar. Oral bacteria in plaque use the sugars in our food to produce acids. These acids erode enamel and eventually lead to cavities. Limiting your sugar consumption and choosing complex carbohydrates over simple carbs are two ways to reduce your risk of cavities.

  • Sugars

The usual suspects—candies, desserts, pastries, sodas—are sugar-filled items you’re familiar with. What might surprise you is the amount of sugar in sports drinks, fruit juices, flavored yogurts, breakfast cereals, and other standard grocery purchases. Checking labels for sugar content is a great way to cut down on unexpected sweeteners.

  • Carbs

The refined starches in white bread, white rice, potato chips, and other simpler carbohydrates quickly break down into sugars. This is the kind of nutrition only plaque appreciates.

Instead, fill your cart with complex carbohydrates, which contain important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Found in foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, and many vegetables, complex carbs break down slowly for longer-lasting energy.

Of course, these suggestions don’t cover everything on your healthy dental shopping list. We could add magnesium for bone density, vitamin B to prevent oral irritation and inflammation, vitamin K for bone strength, and more. To find out the best options for your healthiest smile, talk to Dr. Jason P. Tosto or a member of our Hellertown, PA team about ideas for improving your daily diet.

Because besides leading to stronger teeth, healthier gums, and fewer cavities, a careful and conscious approach to your food choices has another wonderful benefit—a healthy dental diet is healthy for the rest of your body as well. Just something to be mindful of as we greet the new year!

Foods can Wreak Havoc on Your Enamel

December 21st, 2022

It’s possible to develop tooth decay even when you take great care of your teeth. Brushing and flossing may not be enough to keep your teeth healthy, depending on your diet. Cavities, discoloration, and decay are still possible when certain foods feature in your daily intake. Keep an eye out for foods that will damage your enamel and cause the very issues you’ve been trying to avoid.

What causes enamel damage?

Tooth enamel is the hard outer layer of your teeth that is made of various minerals. Tooth decay results when the acids in your food react with the minerals in your enamel. Strongly pigmented foods may also cause unsightly discoloration on the surface of your teeth. Avoid wreaking havoc on your beautiful smile by identifying the foods that can harm your enamel.

Acid

Acidic food is your teeth’s worst nightmare! This is the greatest cause of enamel damage, even if you brush and floss regularly. To avoid damaging your teeth, make sure you can determine whether a food is acidic or not.

The pH levels are a way to determine acidity on a one-to-seven scale. This defines the relative acidity or alkalinity of a food or substance. Foods with high pH levels are not as likely to harm your enamel.

It’s wise to avoid or minimize foods that are high in acids. Highly acidic food can include fruits such as lemons, grapefruit, strawberries, grapes, and apples. Moderately acid foods may surprise you; they include tomatoes, maple syrup, pickles, and honey.

Not surprisingly, eggs and dairy products such as milk and cheese contain the least amount of acid. Red wine and coffee can also discolor your enamel if they’re drunk in excessive amounts.

What can I do to prevent enamel damage?

There are plenty of ways to avoid discoloration and decay of your enamel. The best thing to do is limit the amount of high-acid foods, including sugary juices and soda, in your diet.

Another way is to brush and floss regularly, an hour after each meal. If you can’t make time to brush, an easy solution is to swish your mouth with water or mouthwash to rinse away any leftover acidic particles.

Damaged tooth enamel may be common, but is avoidable when you know which foods to stay away from and the steps to take after you do eat highly acidic foods. Take our advice and you’ll be sure to slow down any future discoloration and decay that happens in your mouth.

For more advice on protecting your enamel, give our Hellertown, PA a call to learn more!

Common Causes of Gum Disease

December 14th, 2022

Your gums are responsible for a large part of your overall oral health. So keeping them healthy and knowing how to detect gum disease is extremely important.

Since it’s often painless, gum disease may go unnoticed and can progress when left untreated. Understanding the causes of gum disease will give you the ability to keep your oral health in great shape:

  • Bacteria and Plaque. Good hygiene helps remove bacteria and plaque from teeth. When plaque is not removed, it turns into a rock-like substance called tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist.
  • Smoking and Tobacco. Smokers and tobacco users put themselves at a higher risk of developing gum disease. Tobacco use can also stain your teeth, give you bad breath, and increase the risk of oral cancer. It’s best to avoid using tobacco altogether.
  • Certain Medications. Ironically, certain medications for other health conditions can increase your risk of developing gum disease. Talk with Dr. Jason P. Tosto if you have concerns about a medication you are taking. Steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, certain cancer therapy medications, and oral contraceptives can be among the culprits.
  • Medical Conditions. Certain medical conditions can also affect your gum health. Diabetics can have an increased risk of gum disease due to the inflammatory chemicals in their bodies. Talk to our team about your health condition so we can take that into account when treating you.

Luckily, there are actions you can take to prevent gum disease. You should make regular visits to our Hellertown, PA office for regular cleanings. It’s also worthwhile to maintain good hygiene habits at home, such as flossing and brushing at least two times every day.

Good oral hygiene practice and visits to our Hellertown, PA office can help you eliminate or reduce the risks of developing gum disease!