Nail Biting And Oral Health

WE CALL SUSPENSEFUL BOOKS “nail-biters,” but the habit of nail biting itself has less exciting connotations.

The most obvious consequence is torn, uneven nails, and in particularly severe cases, nails that become dramatically shortened and deformed over time. This alone would be enough of a reason to discourage the habit, but far more insidious are the effects of nail biting on teeth and oral health.

Consequences For Teeth And Gums

Teeth should never be used as tools, and that includes using them as nail clippers. Over time, nail biting, or oncyophagia, can lead to a variety of complications.

Malocclusion and gaps

Grinding the front teeth together in order to bite through nails can gradually cause them to shift, creating a bad bite—malocclusion—or a gap between the top teeth.

Wearing, chipping, and cracking

At the same time that teeth are shifting into less than ideal positions, they could also be getting chipped or cracked, and they are certainly being worn down.

Root resorption

The pressure chewing nails places on the teeth can actually cause the jaw bone to begin re-absorbing the roots of those teeth, weakening them and increasing the risk of tooth loss. Having braces makes the risk of root resorption even greater.

Gingivitis

Fingernails trap a lot of dirt and microorganisms under them, and chewing on them introduces all of that bacteria to the mouth, which can lead to gum disease.

Increased risk of developing bruxism

People who chew their nails are more likely to develop a chronic teeth-grinding habit, which causes even more problems for the teeth, as well as frequent headaches and facial pain.

Why Does It Happen?

Compulsive nail biting has traditionally been thought of as a nervous habit, but recent studies indicate it may have to do with boredom and perfectionism as well as anxiety. It’s one of several body-focused repetitive disorders, such as picking scabs and pulling hair. Biting nails can be comforting or it can simply provide something to do. Many people who bite their nails don’t even notice they’re doing it. That, of course, makes stopping much harder.

Breaking The Habit

There are many different strategies nail-biters can use to help overcome the urge to keep chewing those nails.

  • Keep nails trimmed short so there isn’t much to bite.
  • Use bitter-tasting nail polish to make nail biting unpleasant.
  • Get manicures so that you’re more motivated to keep your nails looking nice.
  • Replace nail-biting with a different habit, such as squeezing a stress ball or playing with silly putty.
  • Identify your triggers. If you know the circumstances that cause you to bite your nails, you can make plans for dealing with them.
  • Stop gradually. Pick one or two fingernails at a time to stop biting (you might need to cover them to physically prevent yourself from biting them), then gradually add more fingernails until there are none left to bite!

We’re With You All The Way!

Our patients’ oral health is our top concern, which makes us your biggest ally against bad habits that put your oral health in jeopardy. If you have any questions or concerns about nail biting or would like more advice on putting the habit behind you, don’t hesitate to call us!

Our practice is rooting for you!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image by Flickr user Maxwell GS used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Cause, Effect, And Prevention Of Dry Mouth

HAVE YOU EVER woken up with your mouth feeling like a barren desert? Then you’ve probably experienced dry mouth, although it can be even more severe, making it difficult to speak or even eat. Dry mouth affects a tenth of the population, but why is it such a problem, why does it happen, and what can we do about it?

In The Absence Of Saliva…

Saliva is the mouth’s first line of defense against bacteria, bad breath, and tooth decay. It washes away leftover food particles and neutralizes acids, protecting our teeth and gums. Consequently, when there isn’t enough saliva to perform all of these important tasks, the result is much more serious than just an unpleasant sandpaper feeling.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth has numerous causes, including smoking, drinking, dehydration, and even aging. Sometimes the salivary glands can be damaged by chemotherapy or radiation treatment. But the most common cause is ordinary medication. Over 400 medications include dry mouth on their lists of side effects. If you’ve been suffering medication-related dry mouth, come talk to us about options like switching to different medication or changing the dosage.

Good Habits To Prevent Or Reduce Dry Mouth

For particularly severe dry mouth, artificial saliva could provide relief and protect your teeth from decay, but there are also a few good habits that can minimize the problem.

Nose Breathing

Avoid breathing through your mouth—whether you’re awake or asleep. Even for people with fully functioning salivary glands, mouth breathing is going to result in a much drier mouth than nose breathing. For that—and many other health reasons—it’s important to breathe through your nose whenever possible, including during sleep.

Hydration

Stay hydrated. Your salivary glands can’t produce saliva if you’re not drinking enough water, and even if saliva production is impeded for other reasons, regularly sipping water can help eliminate the dry mouth feeling.

Stimulate Saliva Production

Sugar-free gum and candy encourage your salivary glands to up their production, particularly if the flavor is citrus, mint, or cinnamon. (Bonus points: sugar-free gum is also good for your teeth, because it starves the bacteria that feed on sugar!)

Choose Your Mouthwash Carefully

Mouthwash containing alcohol may undo its own positive germ-killing effects by drying out your mouth! Just like drinking alcoholic beverages has a dehydrating effect on the body, swishing alcoholic liquid around will specifically dehydrate the mouth! Make sure you choose a non-alcoholic mouthwash.

Don’t Smoke

As smoking is one of the common causes of dry mouth, not smoking is an obvious solution. The same goes for dry mouth caused by alcohol intake.

We Can Beat Dry Mouth Together!

Dry mouth can pose a serious threat to your oral health, so aside from following these good habits, one of the best things you can do if you experience it is to schedule an appointment with us. We’ll be able to identify the cause and make a plan to put an end to that sandpaper feeling!

We love to fight for your dental health!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image by Flickr user someone10x used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Cooking For A Happy, Healthy Sweet Tooth

MOST OF US find ourselves craving something sweet every once in a while—or perhaps more often than that! Unfortunately, as good as sweet treats taste, they can have a big impact on our dental health.

Sugar And Your Teeth

There are many ways that sugar is bad for our overall health, but it’s also specifically bad for our teeth. Our mouths are diverse microbiomes containing dozens of species of bacteria, both harmful and beneficial, that can reproduce multiple times per day. Sugar may taste good to us, but harmful bacteria love it. They eat the sugar that sticks to our teeth and excrete acid that dissolves tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay.

Brushing twice a day and flossing once a day is usually enough to keep the bacteria populations under control, but your teeth will thank your for avoiding excess sugar. So how can we satisfy a sweet tooth craving without also satisfying the cravings of millions of harmful bacteria? By cooking sugar-free desserts, of course!

Healthier Sweet Options

There are a few ways you can cut down on sugar without cutting down on sweets when you’re cooking. Some of them can be pricey, so your budget might play a role in determining which one you use.

Rebaudioside A

Rebaudioside A is a polyol or sugar alcohol produced by Stevia, a leafy South American plant. The FDA has approved rebaudioside A as a safe food additive, which means we can cook with it. But what makes it better for our teeth than sugar? Well, all those hungry bacteria in our mouths can’t digest sugar alcohols. We get to enjoy the sweet taste, but they don’t! The only downside is that it can leave a bitter aftertaste if you use too much. Since you only need one teaspoon to match the sweetness of a whole cup of sugar, it’s easy to overdo it.

Xylitol and Erythritol

Xylitol and erythritol are two more sugar alcohols that serve as excellent sweeteners. You may be familiar with xylitol, because that’s what sweetens sugar-free gum. While it’s even better for your teeth than other sugar alcohols–which is why dentists recommend it–it might not be the best to cook with, as it can cause digestive discomfort if you eat too much of it. Erythritol doesn’t have that drawback, but it can be pretty expensive.

Fruit

Fruit is another great sugar substitute. If you’d rather work with ingredients you already know, unsweetened applesauce, bananas, dates, and figs are four great replacements for table sugar that you can use in many recipes. You’ll end up with desserts that are still sweet and moist, but which contain far less sugar, which your teeth will appreciate. Fruits are sweet because they contain fructose, a type of sugar, but you’ll use less sugar overall by using pureed fruit instead of table sugar.

Need some extra inspiration for a sugar-free treat? Check out this sugar-free cheesecake recipe below!

Keep Up With Your Oral Health Basics

Even if you completely cut out all foods that are bad for your teeth out of your diet, it’s still crucial to maintain good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, and come see us for a cleaning appointment every six months! Be sure to bring your favorite sugar-free dessert recipes the next time you come!

Your Dental Health Is Our First Priority!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Easy Ways To Improve Your Dental Health

WE’VE ALL HEARD that if we want healthy teeth, we should brush twice a day, floss once a day, and schedule regular dental cleaning appointments twice a year. Definitely keep doing those things, but if you want to step up your oral health game, here are a few easy ways to do that.

Replace Your Toothbrush Regularly

One of the simplest ways you can improve your dental health and hygiene is to replace your toothbrush on a regular basis. Vigorous brushing will make the bristles fray and reduce the brush’s cleaning ability, but that’s not the only reason toothbrushes should be replaced often.

A lot of the bacteria we brush off our teeth stays on the bristles of our toothbrushes. Proper storage–meaning storing the toothbrush upright and letting it dry out between uses–can keep a toothbrush from getting smelly and nasty too fast, but it’s still important to replace your toothbrush at least every 3-4 months.

Use A Tongue-Scraper

Brushing your teeth twice daily is a no-brainer, but don’t forget your tongue! The same bacteria and gunk that flourishes on teeth can hide on your tongue too. Using a tongue scraper or just running your toothbrush over your tongue will leave your mouth feeling much fresher than if you only focus on your teeth and gums.

Don’t Brush Too Hard

Sometimes it seems like we need to really work at those teeth when we brush, to get absolutely all of the food particles and plaque out. However, if we brush too hard, we risk scraping away at the tooth enamel, which is your teeth’s first line of defense against decay. Brush gently or use a toothbrush with soft bristles to avoid damaging your teeth.

Eat Teeth-Friendly Foods

Many foods are bad for your teeth. Sugar and carbs feed the harmful bacteria living in your mouth and acidic drinks erode tooth enamel. Avoiding some of these foods will help, but there are also plenty of foods you can eat that are actually good for your teeth.

Adding more cheese, yogurt, leafy greens, apples, carrots, celery, and almonds to your diet will make your teeth happy, whether by scrubbing them as you eat, fighting bad bacteria, treating gum disease, neutralizing your mouth’s pH, or remineralizing your enamel.

We’d Love To See How Your Teeth Are Doing!

If it’s been a while since your last dental exam, we’d love to see how your teeth are doing, and we’ll be excited to see how adopting these simple habits will affect your oral health by the time we see you again!

We Love Our Patients!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image by Flickr user rumpleteaser used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.