December 20, 2012

Prepare Your Mouth for Mistletoe Surprises

boy and girl kissing under the mistletoeAre you hoping to catch someone under the mistletoe this season? Kissing under the branches and berries of a mistletoe sprig has been a worldwide tradition for generations, perhaps longer (the origins of the ritual are vague). Many people still find the tradition fresh and exciting every year, and you may be among those surprised with a kiss. If so, you’ll want to ensure that the person kissing you remembers the moment for the right reason. Atlanta dentist Dr. Peter Pate gives you these tips to ensure that your mouth remains kissable and ready for those mistletoe surprises.

Tips to a Kissable Mouth

  • To keep your breath consistently fresh, your toothbrush and floss are your best friends. Oral bacteria, the culprits that bring tooth decay and gum disease, can also bring bad breath. Brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day will help control the bacterial population, inhibiting the number of germs available to pass gas in your mouth. (more…)

September 22, 2012

Warning: Athletes at Higher Risk for Cavities

As a triathlete, Dr. Peter Pate knows the exhilaration of competing in endurance sports. As a dentist, he also understands that the lifestyle required of a dedicated athlete poses many risk factors for the development of tooth decay and other oral health issues. Although athletes are generally health-conscious individuals, many people are still unaware of the link between oral health and overall health.  Even more individuals do not realize just how vulnerable oral health is to the destructive habits of daily life. Many dentists report that their athletic patients in particular have suffered extensive oral health issues, such as rampant tooth decay and even tooth loss. While some cases can be attributed to little more than poor oral hygiene, many are residual effects of the damage done by the necessities of an athletic lifestyle. Dr. Pate explains how athletic dedication can put you at higher risk for cavity development.

Athletic Diet Equals Greater Risk Factors for Tooth Decay

Endurance athletes place tremendous strain on their bodies. In order for the body to withstand this pressure, it must have enough energy; therefore, the endurance lifestyle requires an increase in caloric intake. On average, an athlete will consume 6-10g of carbohydrates per kg of body weight per day — an estimated 60% of their calories. Unfortunately, the same carbohydrates that fuel the body also fuel the bacterial plaque that coats the inside of the mouth. Malicious oral bacteria, mainly Streptococcus mutans, or S. mutans, have an insatiable appetite for refined sugars and carbohydrates. After greedily metabolizing carbs, bacteria excrete the by-product lactic acid onto the surfaces of the teeth. This acid  attacks and weakens the tooth enamel while sapping minerals from your teeth.  This makes it very easy for bacteria to slip past this protective layer into the more vulnerable parts of the tooth, causing the formation of dental caries (cavities). Your teeth are the most vulnerable during a race. Some events (like the Ironman triathlon, for instance) can last up to 17 hours. During this time, you must not only consume the necessary daily intake of carbs, but also maintain the energy supply your body will require to keep up with the demand placed on it. Experts suggest an intake of 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour during exercise to maintain blood glucose levels. With this steady intake of fuel, S. mutans and other harmful bacteria can produce an almost continuous supply of lactic acid on your teeth. (more…)

September 20, 2012

Are Energy Drinks Damaging Your Teeth?

Approximately 30-50% of teens in the US consume energy drinks in an effort to improve their athletic prowess, sharpen their concentration, or just obtain a boost of energy to make it through the rest of the day. 62% of American teens consume sports drinks at least once a day. The general belief is that a sports drink, or even an energy drink, is better for you than a sugary alternative, such as juice or soda. Atlanta dentist Dr. Peter Pate explores whether this belief is true, and how sports and energy drinks affect your oral health.

Testing Sports and Energy Drinks on Teeth

In a study published in the May/June 2012 issue of General Dentistry, researchers uncovered that the alarming increase in adolescent consumption of sports and energy drinks is causing irreversible damage to their teeth. Researchers emulated the consumption of these beverages by immersing samples of human tooth enamel in each beverage for about 15 minutes, then immersing them in artificial saliva for two hours. This process was repeated four times a day for five days to stimulate the same exposure young adults subject their teeth to by drinking these beverages several times a day. The acidity levels of energy drinks were far more impressive than those of sports drinks, but both proved noticeably detrimental to tooth enamel after only five days of exposure. Damage to tooth enamel is irreversible, and without enamel, your tooth is essentially defenseless against food debris and bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease. (more…)

September 8, 2012

Over, Under, Cross: What does this mean for your bite?

In order for your teeth and jaw to work properly, your bite must fit properly when at rest. When opposing teeth do not line up as they should, the condition is called malocclusion. The misalignment puts undue stress on jaw muscles and the joints that connect your upper and lower jaw (the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ). Malocclusion can occur for a number of reasons.  Dr. Peter Pate explains the most common form, called overbite.

When Your Teeth Go Overboard

In a healthy mouth, upper teeth will ideally sit about 3-5 mm in front of lower teeth when your jaw is at rest. An overbite is a condition in which this extension is greater than 5mm. Although an overbite can be inherited from parents, a child can develop or worsen an overbite with excessive pacifier use or thumb sucking. Some overbites are so minor as to be unnoticeable, while some are so severe that they visibly alter the structure and appearance of your face. Effects of an extreme overbite, however, go beyond appearance. The strain that an overbite places on the jaw can lead to TMJ disorder, headaches, and speech impediments. Overbites constitute about 70% of dental disorders in children, making it the most common form of malocclusion.

What is an Underbite?

Another form of malocclusion is the underbite.  As you’ve probably guessed, an underbite is the condition where the lower teeth sit in front of the upper teeth when the jaw is at rest. Because upper teeth are supposed to be in front of lower teeth, an underbite is usually more visible than an overbite. Like an overbite, an underbite can be genetically inherited, but can also be worsened by tongue thrusting or excessive open-mouthed breathing. (more…)

Oral Health: Snapshot of Systemic Wellness

The next time you schedule your annual physical, make sure you have your regular dental visit on the calendar as well.  To get an overall view of your health, it can be beneficial to start with the mouth.   Current research shows that many systemic deficiencies or maladies are illustrated in the tissues of the oral cavity.   Atlanta dentist Dr. Peter Pate explains how he can ascertain details about your overall wellbeing by inspecting the health of your mouth.

The Connection Between Your Mouth and Your Body

The oral-systemic connection refers to the relationship between the health of your mouth and the overall health of your body. Over the last several decades, numerous studies have shown that the two are distinctly connected. For instance, the earliest signs of some potentially fatal systemic diseases appear as lesions in the mouth or other oral problems. This discovery has increased the importance of attending your regular dental checkup. Early detection vastly improves the chances of successful treatment.

Further Implications of the Oral-Systemic Connection

The oral-systemic connection has other important implications as well. Incidences of tooth decay and gum disease have been linked to specific malicious bacteria within the oral cavity (S. mutans and P. gingivalis, respectively). When you consume food and beverages that contain refined sugars and other fermentable carbohydrates, bacterial plaque (which is constantly present in your mouth) digests these substances. The by-product of this digestion is lactic acid, which plaque secretes over the surfaces of the teeth. When lactic acid attacks enamel, it also saps teeth of essential enamel-strengthening minerals (calcium and phosphate).  Without these ingredients, the enamel is not able to remineralize and strengthen itself.   Weakened enamel leaves teeth vulnerable to bacterial attack, which leads to tooth decay. The plaque under your gum line secretes acid, and attacks the connective tissue between the gums and teeth. This irritation causes the gums to recede from the teeth, increasing the chance of gum disease. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through diseased soft gum tissue and travel throughout the body, irritating body tissue cells along its journey. (more…)

August 9, 2012

Tantalizing Tongue Trivia

Have you ever wondered why your tongue changes its appearance? Or why your tastebuds seem not to work sometimes?  When your tongue acts strangely, it may be trying to tell you something. Check out these interesting facts from Dr. Peter Pate and boost your knowledge about the tongue!

Tongue Facts

  • The tongue is the strongest muscle in the body and allows you to eat, drink, talk, and make funny faces (about 85% of the population can curl their tongues into a tube).
  • Your tongue is the only muscle that is connected at only one end.
  • Even after brushing and flossing your teeth, bacteria at the back of your tongue can still make your breath foul. In fact, approximately 50% of the bacteria in your mouth reside on the surface of your tongue. Be sure to brush your tongue as a part of your daily oral hygiene routine. You can use the soft bristles of your toothbrush or a tongue scraper, and be sure to rinse thoroughly.
  • Your tongue is like a fingerprint; no two are alike. (more…)

August 8, 2012

Getting to the Root of Tooth Sensitivity

Chances are, you have experienced the discomfort of sensitive teeth.  Sensitivity in the  mouth can be a sign of other underlying issues.  Teeth feature three primary layers: the protective outer enamel, the sensitive dentin, and at the core, a canal that houses nerves and connective tissue. Enamel is the hardest tissue in the body and the second hardest naturally occurring substance on our planet. Dentin is a softer tissue that features tiny tubules, or channels, that allow sensations of pressure and temperature to be conducted to the tooth’s nerve. The nerves that lie within the inner canal then send signals to the brain.

Thin Enamel

Acid erosion and tooth wear can thin the protective enamel on the outside of teeth. Thin enamel provides less insulation, making teeth more sensitive to temperature fluctuations and pressure. Erosion is most often caused by acid in foods or from stomach acid. Enamel wear most often results from grinding and clenching teeth, a condition called bruxism.

Exposed Dentin

The crowns of teeth are covered with enamel, but the roots are not. If the gums recede, roots become exposed. The slightest pressure, such as that from wind, can cause intense pain to exposed teeth roots. Temperature fluctuations will also cause discomfort. Gums can recede for a number of reasons, including gum disease, grinding, or aging. (more…)