Posts for: October, 2016
The hard clack of cleats echo about as your “little” sports hero rushes to get out of the house … soon to be late for practice. Armed with all they’ll need for a day in the sun, their equipment bag is packed and slung awkwardly over one shoulder, bursting at the seams with untold numbers of pads and dirty gear. And after making a final beeline through the kitchen to raid your refrigerator of a 64oz bottle or two of rainbow-colored sustenance, they’re off for what will no doubt be another grueling practice session. You’re proud of your kids – they’re growing up. And yet you wonder as you stare at the door that just shut behind them. Are those techni-colored drinks they’re drinking every day hurting them?
The truth, unfortunately, is yes. While they may keep your children energized and awake for the next few hours, the bad news is, they’re secretly eating away at their teeth - and fast.
Why Are Energy Drinks Such a Threat to Teeth?
The crux of the problem is the double-whammy that comes from an exceedingly high sugar content and citric acid pH that can be as low as 2.9. Now, we understand pH can be a tricky thing to understand, so to help put that number in perspective, a bit, consider this: battery acid has a pH of 0.0 (so, a lower number means a higher acid content). Stomach acid (which we can imagine as being quite acidic, at least!) has a pH that fluctuates between 1.0 and 3.0. A lemon, in contrast, comes in at around 2.0, a grapefruit at 3.0, and tomato juice at 4.0.
The real distinction though is in knowing that with each increase in numerical value, the acid intensity increases 10-fold. So, in the example above, a lemon ends up being 10 times more acidic than a grapefruit, and 100 times more acidic than tomato juice - a sensation you can certainly taste if you bite into one! In contrast, milk and water have a pH of 7.0, so, it's easy to see the difference in the numbers - they're huge.
What all this means to your child’s teeth is the real question, though, and precisely what researchers at Southern Illinois University set out to discover in 2012. The results, which surprised even the research team, showed considerable damage to tooth enamel after only five days of steady consumption. Five days.
To determine the effect of these drinks on our teeth, the research team looked at 22 popular sports and energy drinks, and exposed artificial tooth enamel to the beverages for 15 minutes at a time, four times daily. This schedule was chosen because it mirrors the consumption habits of many users who drink these beverages every few hours - a particularly common habit among those who consume sports drinks, particularly when your kids are involved in sports. After each 15-minute exposure, the enamel was then placed into an artificial saliva solution for two hours to mimic what would happen once consumption stopped. After only five days on this schedule, the enamel showed a 1.5% loss with sports drinks, and a shocking 3% loss with energy drinks. Parents please be advised--we have a family in our office whose daughters' play sports and drank sports drinks. Companies sell and market to athletes so it must be good for you--right? WRONG. By the time the girls were in high school, they had numerous cavities.
While critics in the beverage industry suggest the time used to expose the enamel to the drinks may have been excessive, it's widely known that snacking, as well as regular sipping of any beverage other than water, creates acidic activity in the mouth that promotes tooth decay. Of course, adults also need to be careful, and if you’re the weekend warrior type, or are pulling shifts and consuming these beverages throughout the day, the time of exposure might actually not be long enough. The sweet spot is in the middle-ground, and that's basically the advice we're going to offer today.
There is no doubt that these beverages are not good for our teeth. They're also not good for our stomach, and esophagus if one is prone to acid reflux. Dr. Schneider is seeing many patients with acid reflux who once consumed energy drinks, sports drinks, or sodas. During his examinations, Dr. Schneider always asks about acid reflux when he see's a breakdown of enamel.
The Middle Ground -- It's about being Informed
We're not asking you to force your kids to give up their sports beverages and energy drinks. However, it is wise to know the risks, and to understand how you can help your kids combat some of their side-effects. Here are two quick tips that will help if they can't shake the habit:
- Have them keep water nearby so they sip on it to dilute the acid covering their teeth. This also increases saliva production to help protect tooth enamel.
- Suggest that they don't brush immediately after consuming such beverages. Why? Because in the thirty minutes to an hour after consumption, tooth enamel will be slightly softer, and brushing in this window of time literally ends up spreading the acid around to other parts of the teeth. Not good. If brushing is desired, save it for an hour or so after.
Lastly, here is the breakdown of most caustic to least caustic drinks as found by the researchers.
- Filtered Ionozed Alkaline H2O – pH: 10.0
- Water – pH: 7.o
- Odwalla Carrot juice – pH: 6.2
- Odwalla Vanilla Monster – pH: 5.8
- Unflavored Pedialyte – pH: 5.4
- Vita coco - pH: 5.2
- Aquafina,Dasani, Smart water – pH: 4.0
- GU2O – pH: 4.29
- Powerade – pH: 3.89
- Accelerade – pH: 3.86
- Gatorade Endurance – pH: 3.22
- Monster - pH: 2.7
- Red Bull - pH: 3.3
- AMP Energy – pH: 2.7
- Monster Energy – pH: 2.7
- Full Throttle - pH: 1.45
- Rock Star – pH: 1.5
P.S. Don’t forget the mouthguard!
A few days before the Oscars, Vanity Fair magazine asked Academy Awards host Neil Patrick Harris to name his most treasured possession. Was it his Tony award statuette for best leading actor in a musical? His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? The stethoscope he wore while playing teenaged doctor Doogie Howser on TV? No, as it turns out, the 41-year-old actor’s most treasured possession is… his wisdom teeth. Yes, you read that correctly. “Oddly, I still have my four wisdom teeth,” Harris said. “I refuse to let them go or I’ll lose my wise parts.”
How odd is it for a 41-year-old to have wisdom teeth? Actually, not that odd at all. While it is true that wisdom teeth are often removed, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this. It all depends on whether they are causing problems now, or are likely to cause problems in the future.
The trouble wisdom teeth cause is related to the fact that they are the last molars to come in, and that molars are large in size. By the time wisdom teeth appear between the ages of 17 and 21, there often is not enough room for them in the jaw. Sometimes it’s because you may have inherited a jaw size that’s too small for your tooth size; and generally speaking, the size of the human jaw has evolved to become smaller over time.
If room is lacking, the adjacent molar (that came in earlier) can interfere with the path of eruption — causing the wisdom tooth to come in at an odd angle. The wisdom tooth can hit up against that other tooth, possibly causing pain or damaging the adjacent tooth. This is known as “impaction.” Sometimes the wisdom tooth breaks only partway through the gum tissue, leaving a space beneath the gum line that’s almost impossible to clean, causing infection. A serious oral infection can jeopardize the survival of teeth, and even spread to other parts of the body.
If a wisdom tooth is impacted, will you know it? Not necessarily. A tooth can be impacted without causing pain. But we can see the position of your wisdom teeth on a dental x-ray and help you make an informed decision as to whether they should stay or go. If removal is the best course of action, rest assured that this procedure is completely routine and that your comfort and safety is our highest priority. If there is no great risk to keeping them, as Neil Patrick Harris has done, we can simply continue to monitor their condition at your regular dental checkups. It will be particularly important to make sure you are reaching those teeth with your brush and floss, and that you keep to your schedule of regular professional cleanings at the dental office. All healthy teeth are indeed worth treasuring.
If you would like more information about wisdom teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Wisdom Teeth” and “Removing Wisdom Teeth.”
Durable as well as life-like, dental implants are by far the preferred method for replacing missing teeth. But they can be costly and, although not as much, so can traditional bridgework. Is there an effective but more affordable means to replace a few missing teeth?
There is: a removable partial denture (RPD). In fact, RPDs have always been the less expensive alternative to bridgework and implants. Today's RPDs are usually made of vitallium, a strong but lightweight metal alloy. Because of the metal's characteristics, we can create an appliance that precisely matches the contours of your gums, is thin and hardly noticeable. We anchor prosthetic (false) teeth made of porcelain, resins or plastics in acrylic or nylon that resembles gum tissue.
The most important aspect of an RPD is to design it to produce the least amount of movement in your mouth as you eat or speak. A good design will minimize pressure on both the underlying bone (which can accelerate bone loss) and on the remaining teeth that support the RPD. Although a little more costly, it may be advantageous to use a dental implant to stabilize a lower partial denture when no end tooth is available for support.
To get the most out of your RPD — and to prevent dental disease — it's important for you to practice diligent daily hygiene. RPD attachments can make remaining teeth more susceptible to plaque accumulation, a thin film of bacteria and food particles that can cause tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. To avoid this you should remove the RPD and thoroughly brush and floss your remaining teeth. You should clean the RPD every day with recommended cleansers. You should also take it out at night while you sleep to discourage further bacterial or fungal growth.
Besides daily care for your RPD and natural teeth, be sure to visit us for cleanings and checkups at least twice a year. Taking care of both your appliance and your mouth will help ensure your RPD serves you for many years to come.
If you would like more information on removable partial dentures or other restoration options, 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 “Removable Partial Dentures: Still a Viable Tooth-Replacement Alternative.”