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Healthy Teeth

10 Reasons Teeth Yellow

January 5th, 2017

White teeth are often considered a sign of beauty and many believe a person’s smile is a deciding factor in social status and career advancement. It’s no wonder that the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry reports that products and procedures for teeth whitening topped $12 billion last year – a number expected to grow over the next ten years.

So why do teeth yellow or become discolored? And, is success guaranteed for every person and with every treatment? Here are some things to consider:

Your teeth are made up of non-living and living material. The non-living part of the tooth is enamel and can be easy to whiten. The living part of the tooth is the inner part of the tooth – the dentin. Some people are born with teeth that appear more yellow (or white) simply because of the thickness of their tooth enamel. Your enamel is semi-translucent so if it is thin, the naturally yellowish color of your dentin (the hard, dense, bony tissue forming the bulk of a tooth beneath the enamel) will show through. Unfortunately, there is no way to increase the thickness of your enamel but everyone can prevent further thinning.

Have you ever noticed how white a young child’s teeth are compared to an adult? This is because yellowing is a natural part of the aging process. As we age, our enamel thins and our dentin yellows causing teeth to appear more yellow and sensitivity problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, the answer is in saliva production since saliva neutralizes damaging acids and limits bacterial growth that can dissolve tooth enamel.

The foods we eat play an important role in how white our teeth are. A steady diet that is high in sugar and starches, without proper dental hygiene, can cause bacteria fermentation that leads to enamel erosion. Foods that contain high levels of tannin, such as wine, tea and coffee, and dark foods such as blueberries and curry spices can stain teeth, while foods and beverages that are acidic can wear the enamel, causing the yellowish color of the dentin to show through. People are often surprised by the acidity in tomato sauces, sports drinks and sodas. While there’s no need to avoid these foods and beverages completely, dentists recommend protecting your teeth by limiting carbonated soft drinks, acidic sports drinks and sweetened liquids, swish your mouth with water to dilute sugar and acid, brush regularly and get regular dental cleanings to remove plaque build-up.

The number one reason teeth yellow is lifestyle – the foods we eat, our hygiene, smoking and chewing tobacco. With smoking, the nicotine from the tobacco leaves a yellowish or brownish stain on the surface of your teeth – a great reason to stop!

Inadequate brushing and flossing to remove plaque and stain-producing substances can cause tooth discoloration. Neglect can also allow acid to build up which can etch the enamel of teeth and allow the more yellowish inner dentin to show through. Fortunately, it’s a very easy challenge to correct. The answer? Swish with water after eating and brush regularly with a fluoride-based toothpaste to keep teeth clean and as white as possible. Then, don’t put off your bi-annual professional cleanings.

A number of common medicines used to fight illnesses can also cause discoloration of our teeth. reports that antibiotics tetracycline and doxycycline are known to discolor teeth when given to children whose teeth are still developing. Minocycline, a derivative of tetracycline, often prescribed to fight acne, can also cause teeth staining. Antihistamines and antipsychotic drugs, and drugs for high blood pressure can also cause teeth discoloration. If this is a concern for you, be sure to go over your medications with your doctor to avoid surprise side effects.

Finally, if discoloration is a concern, be cautious of mouth rinses containing antibacterial agents chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride that can stain teeth.

Certain medical conditions affect tooth enamel such as dry mouth (xerostomia), acid reflux (GERD) and gastrointestinal problems. These can contribute to erosion of your teeth’s enamel exposing the dentin below. Yellowing can also occur after suffering high fever at a young age or neonatal jaundice, and with Sickle Cell Disease.

In addition, chemotherapy and/or radiation not only kill cancer harmful cells but can harm cells in the mouth causing teeth to become more of a brownish color. The treatment can also affect salivary glands, causing a dry mouth which can lead to erosion of enamel. If you are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, be sure to add your dentist to your medical team throughout the process. Ideally, your dentist and cancer doctor will talk if you begin to experience problems in your mouth.

While fluoride is good for your teeth, excessive fluoride can actually yellow teeth. It’s called “fluorosis” and occurs primarily in areas where drinking water contains high levels of naturally occurring fluoride, such as well water.

Inherited disorders that cause teeth to develop improperly, such as dentinogenesis imperfecta and amelogensis imperfecta, can also cause discoloration of teeth. In the former, the teeth may appear blue-gray or yellow-brown in color, and in the latter, teeth may appear small, discolored, and pitted or grooved. In both cases, the teeth are often weaker than normal making them prone to rapid wear, breakage and loss. Generally, teeth whitening (bleaching) is not recommended for these disorders since the underlying cause is the yellow-brown dentin of the teeth.

An accident that damages the tooth’s interior can lead to discoloration. In some cases, there can be bleeding that needs professional attention. If you or someone you know cracks a tooth, call your dentist for an evaluation.

Grinding your teeth is known as bruxism. The habit can cause weakening of teeth, including cracking and yellowing. The challenge with grinding is that it’s often done at night. If you believe you grind your teeth, talk to your dentist about a guard to protect your teeth.

Since healthy teeth are important for a beautiful smile, proper dental hygiene and regular dental check ups continue to be the best prevention against yellowing teeth. Removing food that can cause bacteria is important as is removing plaque and tarter that appears yellow. A professional cleaning will also remove staining. While you’re there, if you aren’t happy with the color of your teeth, talk to your dentist to learn which teeth whitening treatment might work best for you.

One More Reason to Love Pumpkin

October 27th, 2016

Its pumpkin season and the super food is everywhere – in coffee, in baked goods and in decor. But did you know that this squash is also good for your teeth; particularly, pumpkin seeds?

The seed has long been valued as a good source of phosphorus, manganese, and copper. It also contains iron and protein so it is deserving of its place in our list of nutritional powerhouses. In addition to these necessary nutrients, pumpkin seeds contain zinc which keeps bones and teeth strong.

Magnesium works with calcium to create hard enamel that resists tooth decay.

Finally, pumpkin seeds contain vitamin A which promotes healing and keeps gums healthy.

Our favorite way to eat pumpkin seeds is roasted with a bit of salt. Simply preheat your oven to 300 degrees (F). Toss pumpkin seeds in a bowl with a bit of melted butter or oil and seasonings of your choice. Spread your seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Cool and enjoy!

16 Foods for Your Fabulous Smile

September 15th, 2016

Have you ever thought about the food you eat and how your choices might improve your smile? According to the American Dental Association (ADA), avoiding foods high in sugar such as candy and soda can prevent tooth decay. Want more tips on eating for a fabulous smile? Check out these diet dynamos:

1. Foods high in calcium and protein, like milk, cheese and yogurt, are great because these nutrients build tooth enamel. In addition, the probiotics (healthy bacteria) of yogurt benefit your gums by crowding out bacteria that causes cavities.

A recent study published in the Journal of American Dental Association found that milk reduces the levels of acid in the mouth caused by bacteria.  When brushing is not an option, try drinking milk after eating a sweet food.

2. Not all sweet foods are bad for your teeth. Raisins don’t contain sucrose (table sugar) which helps bacteria stick to your tooth’s surface allowing for plaque. Raisins are also a good source of phytochemicals which may actually kill cavity-causing bacteria.

3. Crunchy foods high in water and fiber, like apples and carrots, may disturb dental plaque and produce saliva which rinses away bacteria and food particles. The fiber also stimulates your gums.

Celery has been called nature’s floss, acting a bit like a toothbrush to scrape away food particles. It’s also a good source of vitamins A and C, great for gum health.

4. Foods high in phosphorous, such as meat, eggs and fish, can help keep tooth enamel strong and healthy according to the American Dental Association. And, according to researchers, calcium and phosphate help redeposit minerals back into lesions caused by acidic foods.

5. Cranberries contain polyphenols, phytochemicals or micronutrients that have antioxidant properties, and may keep plaque from sticking to teeth, lowering the risk of cavities. Look for cranberries without added sugar.

6. While foods high in vitamin C can be acidic, the vitamin also strengthens blood vessels and reduces inflammation which may help your gums stay healthy. The vitamin is also necessary for production of collagen, a protein that helps fight periodontal disease. Try oranges (the least acidic of the citrus fruits), kale, kiwi, strawberries and broccoli to get plenty of vitamin C in your diet.

7. Love gum? Choose sugarless gum since chewing boosts saliva production, clearing away bacteria. Since sugarless gum doesn’t contain sugar, you won’t worry about bacteria which rely on sucrose (table sugar) to produce plaque.

8. Like cranberries, green and black teas contain compounds called polyphenols that slow the growth of bacteria associated with cavities and gum disease. A 2010 study also found that black tea controls bad breath. So drink up!

9. Vitamin D is critical to bone and tooth health because it helps your body absorb calcium and may lower your risk for disease. While sunlight is the best natural source of Vitamin D, foods such as fish, egg yolks and cod liver oil also provide the valuable nutrient.

10. Antioxidants fight the bacteria that cause inflammation and periodontal disease, and protect your gums (and other tissues) from cell damage and bacterial infection. Mix foods rich in vitamins C and E, such as apples, berries, nuts and beans, into your diet to get these valuable micronutrients.

11. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, sour pickles and tempeh (made from fermented soybeans), contain good bacteria called probiotics that help decrease plaque and promote healthy gums.

12. Leafy greens are full of vitamins and minerals while low in sugar. Greens like kale and spinach are also high in calcium which builds tooth enamel. Need another reason to eat your leafy greens? How about folic acid, a type of B vitamin that might help treat gum disease.

13. Love nuts? Well of course you do! They provide vitamins and minerals that help your teeth and the abrasive texture of sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, and cashews may work to remove surface stains, like an exfoliator for your teeth.

14. While garlic may give you bad breath, when finely chopped or crushed, it produces allicin, the key ingredient responsible for its anti-bacterial activity. Beware – allicin begins to degrade quickly and cooking and microwaving appear to destroy the valuable compound. Best advice? Add freshly crushed garlic to foods just before serving.

15. There are tons of good reasons to eat pears, including the phytonutrients and anti-inflammatory flavonoids found in the skin. In addition to these, pears neutralize acids that can damage your teeth. So eat up!

16. Low in fat and packed with protein, the shitake mushroom may improve oral health if taken in sufficient quantity because of the “good” bacteria that means less harmful plaque, gum disease and possibly fewer cavities.

From controlling bad breath to avoiding plaque and cavities, the foods we eat can have in impact on oral health. So choose well and gnash for a great smile!