Dr. Smith and the Dental Health and Wellness Boston team share these important oral hygiene facts from Mens Health Magazine.
What: Your stomach is built to contain digestive juices that break down food. But when acid escapes and heads north to sear sensitive structures and cause heartburn, it can move into your mouth, dissolving enamel and making your teeth sensitive. Even more frightening, chronic heartburn can lead to esophageal cancer.
Solution: Put down the soda can. Carbonation causes your stomach to expand, which can pop the esophageal sphincter—the cork that traps stomach acid inside your gut. Substitute water for soda and chew sugarless gum to increase saliva, which contains enamel-repairing minerals.
What: Your gums become infected when plaque, a bacteria-laden film that forms on your teeth after you eat, is allowed to harden at the gum line. And blood on your toothbrush is nothing to ignore. Gingivitis has been linked to tooth loss, heart disease, and, most recently, pancreatic cancer. Researchers blame the bacteria, which they think reacts with digestive chemicals to create fertile conditions for cancer-cell growth.
Solution: Sugar worsens gingivitis by feeding the plaque that causes it. Replace your 2 spoonfuls with an artificial sweetener, such as Splenda, or eat walnuts. They’re high in methionine, an amino acid that lowered pancreatic-cancer risk by nearly 70 percent in a Swedish study.
What: Lack of protection can lead to skin cancer on your smoocher. Your lower lip is one of the most common sites for squamous-cell carcinoma to set in, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Worse, this cancer is most apt to spread when it takes root in your mouth.
Solution: Smear on a lip balm that packs an SPF of 30, like Proderma ($3.50, prodermaproducts.com), every time you’re outdoors, including when you’re driving because UVA light crashes through untinted car windows. Also, down one bottle of Pure Green, made by Tea’s Tea, every afternoon; it contains two therapeutic servings of green tea. Studies show that antioxidants in green tea can reduce your risk of the skin cancer by 70 to 80 percent.
What: They look nasty and feel bad, but the real threat of cold sores is the heart havoc the herpes virus can wreak. Herpes simplex 1 (HSV1) lies dormant in the nervous system until stress, illness, or fatigue causes a cold sore. And researchers suspect that when the virus reactivates, it triggers a nerve response in the coronary artery that may lead to dangerous clotting.
Solution: Stress can bring on a cold sore and a heart attack, so consider yoga, tai chi, mediation, or another method of stress relief. Research shows these techniques can quell tension and increase immune-system cells. And a recent German study showed hypnosis is another promising cold sore and stress blaster.
What: A lot of times your sinuses, not your mouth, are to blame. Inflamed nasal passages caused by allergies or a chronic infection can breed bad breath in two ways. First, a stuffy nose forces you to breathe through your mouth, which dries up saliva that would otherwise kill the bacteria that causes bad breath. Then there’s post-nasal drip: Mucus slides down the back of your nose, onto the back of your tongue. This slime feeds bacteria, which in turn breed volatile sulfur compounds, creating foul oral odor.
Solution: Gargle with mouthwash before bed instead of in the morning. Your mouth produces less salvia at night—and more bacteria, which means more sulfurous stink bombs. Swish mouthwash for 30 seconds, targeting the back of the tongue by tilting your head back and breathing through your nose. Breath still able to kill small animals? See an ear, nose, and throat specialist, who can diagnose and treat sinus infections. (To locate one, go to entnet.org and click on “Find an ENT.”)
Dr. Smith also recommends Tooth and Gums products from Dental Herb Company including pastes, breath sprays and tonics, all natural options to eliminate bad breath and bacteria in your mouth.
A Painless Bump
What: No pain doesn’t mean no problem. Stick out your tongue and look for a white or red patch, a yellow-gray ulcer with a red halo, or a thickening of tissue. Each can signal oral cancer.
Solution: Call your dentist for a cancer screening if the bump doesn’t disappear within 10 days.
Dark of Fuzzy Patches
What: These could be colonies of bacteria stained by coffee, tea, or tobacco.
Solution: Remove them and stop further growth by using a tongue scraper daily. See your doctor or dentist for antibiotics to stop the infection.
Redness and Pain
What: If your tongue is as red as a cherry Popsicle, it could be glossitis—a painful or swollen tongue. More common in men than in women, it can be a sign of vitamin deficiency, infection, or even a food allergy. Smoking or drinking can also bring it on.
Solution: See your doctor for a definitive diagnosis. He may prescribe supplements, antibiotics, or allergy meds to clear it up.
If you have any concerns about your oral health or are in need of your yearly check up, make your appointment today with Dental Health and Wellness Boston!