Prevention is the best medicineRegular healthy habits can lower your risk of both gum disease and heart disease. And, if you already have one or both of these conditions, these strategies can help reduce their impact:
- Brush and floss regularly. To remove plaque-forming bacteria, brush for at least two minutes, twice a day, and don’t skip the floss.
- Choose a healthy diet, rich in essential nutrients (especially vitamins A and C). Reduce or eliminate sugar and starches.
- Avoid cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. These habits can destroy your gums and increase your chance of heart disease.
- 1CDC, NCHS. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2013 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released 2015.
- 2Rydén L, Buhlin K, Ekstrand E, et al. Periodontitis increases the risk of a first myocardial infarction: A report from the PAROKRANK study. 2016.
- 3Jeffcoat et al. Impact of periodontal therapy on general health: evidence from insurance data for five systemic conditions. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2014;47(2):166-74.
- 4Gum Disease and Heart Disease. American Academy of Periodontology. Dec. 2016. http://www.perio.org/consumer/heart_disease
The drinks are especially popular among teens and young adults. Up to half of U.S. teens and young adults drink energy drinks, and more than half have at least one sports drink a day, according to the researchers.Researcher Poonam Jain, BDS, MPH, associate professor and director of community dentistry at the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine and her team tested 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks for acidity. They tested six drinks for their effects on tooth enamel and found both types caused damage. Energy drinks, however, were twice as bad. Remember:damaged tooth enamel cannot be fixed.
Jain's team immersed enamel samples from extracted human teeth into three sports drinks and three energy drinks.
They tested the acidity levels of all 22 drinks. They found the levels of acidity in the drinks vary between brands and between flavors of the same brands.
Sports drinks, energy drinks, and teeth: study detailsUp to half of U.S. teens and young adults drink energy drinks, and more than half have at least one sports drink a day, according to the researchers. Other study results included:
Gatorade Blue had the highest acidity among sports drinks. Next was Hydr8.
Among the energy drinks with the highest acidity:
- Red Bull Sugar=free
- Monster Assault
- 5-hour Energy
- Von Dutch
MDX had the lowest acidity of the energy drinks.
The sports drinks tested were:
- Gatorade Rain
- Powerade Option
- Propel Grape
The energy drinks tested were:
- Monster Assault
- Red Bull
- 5-hour Energy
The enamel samples were immersed in the drinks for 15 minutes. The researchers transferred the enamel to artificial saliva for two hours.
This cycle was repeated four times a day for five days. The beverages were replaced with fresh ones every day.
The cycle was meant to simulate real life, Jain says, as some teens and young adults drink the beverages every few hours.
Enamel loss was evident after five days of exposure, Jain says.
The average enamel lost with sports drinks was about 1.5%, while the average loss with energy drinks was more than 3%. Jain says she cannot pinpoint what percent of enamel loss would cause problems.
Advice for sports drink lovers
Even one drink a day is potentially harmful, Jain says.
"If the consumer is absolutely unable to give them up, the best advice is to minimize [their use] and rinse with water afterwards," she says.
"Dilute them," she says. Do not brush immediately after drinking them, she says, as this could spread around the acid. "The mouth takes about 30 minutes to bring the pH back to normal. Wait an hour after drinking the sports or energy drink, to be safe, then brush."
It is very important to read labels on any drink you choose to prevent the cavities and gum disease that these drinks can cause. Also, be aware that the cream and sugar you put in your coffee in the morning has the same effect as other high sugar drinks.
The best drink of choice for the health of your teeth and gums is plain water. We're realistic though, and understand this can be difficult for anyone to regularly practice. If you’re going to have a soda or sweetened drink, be careful to drink them all in one sitting rather than sipping for a long time, and try to have a drink of water when you’re finished.
Healthy Snack OptionsSummer offers a bounty of food options that can improve your overall well-being and enhance your dental health. These include:
- Corn: This plant is at its prime sweetness during the hottest months of the year. It can be delicious when grilled, barbequed, or steamed, either on the cob or off of it. Corn is rich in important compounds that benefit dental health, including phosphorous, magnesium, thiamin, fiber, and vitamin C. Just make sure to floss after enjoying your corn so that it doesn’t remain stuck between your teeth for the rest of the day.
- Salads: crisp lettuce, ripe tomatoes, fresh cucumbers, and vibrant carrots make up a healthy summer salad. In addition to providing important nutrients and fiber, raw vegetables can naturally scrub debris from your teeth to keep them shiny and clean.
- Fish: Many people enjoy lighter meals during the summer, and fish is an excellent protein option for this purpose. The omega 3 fatty acids in fish can help fight gum disease and benefit your general health.
- Berries: One of the best parts of summer is enjoying sweet, luscious, delectable berries. 1-800-Dentist points out that “ripe, juicy, red strawberries are the perfect snack for self proclaimed ‘sugar addicts’ as the perfect berry will taste better than any candy out there, minus the risks and with vitamins and minerals essential for fueling the human body.” Berries often contain vitamin C, calcium, folate, magnesium, potassium, and even cancer-fighting antioxidants.
Less Than Ideal Summertime TreatsUnfortunately, while they’re tasty, some of our favorite summer foods aren’t the best for our teeth. The barbeque sauce that gives a special zing to your ribs and steaks on the grill can be spicy or acidic, wearing down your enamel. Many people also enjoy sipping on sweet cocktails on vacation or out by the pool, but these sugary beverages can feed decay-causing bacteria. Cold treats like frozen popsicles and ice creams can also coat your mouth in sticky syrup, contributing to dental plaque on your teeth and even beneath your gums. Munching on potato chips or other starchy snacks can also contribute to plaque formation. While they are delectable, we recommend limiting your consumption of these types of summertime treats and remaining especially conscientious about your oral hygiene if you do.
Summer Smile SuggestionsIn addition to enjoying healthy summer foods and limiting your consumption of potentially damaging treats, you can take simple, proactive steps to improve your oral hygiene this summer. These include:
- Drinking plenty of water. Especially in summer heat, staying hydrated is very important. Dr. Flanagan and our team recommend swishing your mouth with water after eating to wash away debris and improve your saliva flow.
- Chewing xylitol gum. This artificial sweetener tastes great and can help fight cavity-causing bacteria.
- Setting aside specific snacking times. Munching on sugary, starchy treats throughout the day constantly exposes your teeth to them, raising your risk for decay and other dental issues. Limiting your summer food fun to specific times can help you relish your treats while preserving your smile.
- Brushing and flossing your teeth. You should brush at least twice per day and floss at least once.
- Coming in to our practice for regular cleanings and examinations. Dr. Clark recommends that patients come in at least twice a year for a check-up. Attending these routine visits allows us to catch and treat any oral health conditions before they worsen.