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Saliva: What’s the Purpose?

As a NYC Cosmetic Dentist, I get asked about saliva quite a bit (often when I have instruments in someone’s mouth and they start to drool.)

So let’s answer the common questions: What is saliva? Where does it come from? What’s in it? What is it used for? What are we still learning about it?

What is saliva, and where does it come from?

Call it what you want — spit, spittle, drool, etc — saliva is one of the most common (and obvious) bodily fluids. It’s the watery substance that’s prevalent in everyone’s mouth, and is produced by three pairs of major salivary glands (and many, many minor glands).

These three major glands are located on the inside of each cheek, on the bottom of the mouth, and under the jaw, towards the front of the mouth. The rest of the minor glands are all over the rest of the mouth (the palate, the tongue, your lips, etc.)

These glands work together to produce saliva all day, every day (although production of saliva dramatically falls during sleep. Hey, that’s why your mouth is so dry when waking up!) In general terms, most healthy humans will produce somewhere between one and two quarts of saliva a day.

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8 Mistakes You’re Probably Making When You Brush Your Teeth

It’s not exactly a newsflash that one of the most important reasons to brush your teeth is to fight off cavities (not to mention prevent bad breath). But what if the way you brush your teeth actually makes you more susceptible to cavities, tooth decay and gum disease? Scary.

Turns out, there are a host of common mistakes that many of us make morning and night that can damage teeth and turn a healthy smile upside-down. Find out what you’re doing wrong — and how to break these bad habits for better teeth.

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How Lack of Sleep Effects Weight Gain

We know from studies that lack of sleep is causally connected to many physical problems. One of the common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea is being overweight. So then, how do sleep disorders contribute to weight gain?

Ghrelin: the Hunger Hormone

Lack of sleep increases ghrelin, and decreases leptin, both effects producing increased hunger and obesity. Leptin is the “anti-hunger” hormone. When the circadian rhythm is interrupted by exposure to light at night, gherlin is released. Ghrelin is known as the “hunger hormone” It is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and functions as a neurotransmitter. The receptor for ghrelin is found on the same cells in the brain as the receptor for leptin, the satiety hormone that has opposite effects from ghrelin.

An inverse relationship between the hours of sleep and blood concentrations of ghrelin exists; as the hours of sleep increase, ghrelin levels trend lower and obesity is less likely. Short sleep duration is associated with high levels of ghrelin and obesity.
When the stomach is empty, ghrelin is secreted. When we eat something the stomach is stretched and ghrelin secretion stops. Ghrelin acts to increase hunger and to increase gastric acid secretion and gastrointestinal motility to prepare the body for food intake.

What else does Ghrelin effect?
Beyond regulating hunger, ghrelin also plays a significant role in other systemic functions. Ghrelin influences body composition, it stimulates the release of growth hormone and regulaties the distribution and rate of use of energy.

This is just another convincing reason to get adequate healthy sleep. Light is the circadian rhythm disrupter. Avoid light disturbances during sleep: have no lights in the bed room, pull the shades down to block any outside light, wear an eye mask.

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Zarouna S, Wozniak G, Papachristou
Stalo Zarouna, Psychology Department, University of Cyprus, Nicosia 1678, Cyprus.
Gahete MD, Córdoba-Chacón J, Salvatori R, Castaño JP, Kineman RD, Luque RM.
Department of Cell Biology, Physiology and Immunology, University of Cordoba, Instituto Maimónides de Investigación Biomédica de Córdoba (IMIBIC), and CIBER Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y Nutrición, 14004 Córdoba, Spain.

Dental screening that could save your life

We all know about the importance of sleep, and we know we should be getting more of it. When we wake up exhausted, drag ourselves to work or hit that afternoon slump, we blame ourselves: “Should have gotten more sleep last night.”

But instead of “Did I get eight hours?” we should be asking ourselves, “How well did I sleep?” We tolerate feeling exhausted during the day, but it’s actually not normal to feel tired or sleepy when you wake up.

You can’t ask yourself how well you’re sleeping without considering sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that affects an estimated one in 15 Americans but often goes undetected.

Most people who suffer from sleep apnea don’t know it — they often seek out a diagnosis only if their partner can’t sleep through the snoring. Since sleep apnea ranges from mild to severe, lots of cases of sleep apnea aren’t noticed by sleeping partners, and people live their whole lives undiagnosed.

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Drinks Destroy Teeth

Sugar and Acidity or pH of common drinks
Please note: Battery acid is listed below only for purposes of comparison, and should never be confused for any reason as a beverage.
The pH scale measures the acidity or alkalinity of a solution with pure water in the middle at neutral pH 7. The lower the pH, the stronger the acid.

Drink or Substance (12 oz. serving)    Acid pH              Tsp. Sugar
Water                                                              7.0 (neutral)           0
Milk                                                                6.7                     1
Barq’s Root Beer                                          4                        11
Minute Maid® Orange Juice                  3.8                     9
Propel® Fitness Water                             3.4                     1
Red Bull® Energy Drink                          3.3                     10
Sprite®                                                          3.3                     10
Mountain Dew                                            3.3                     12
Diet Coke                                                      3.1                     0
Sierra Mist                                                   3.1                     10
Full Throttle Energy Drink                      3                        11
Diet Pepsi                                                     3                         0
Gatorade®                                                   2.9                     5
Sunkist® Orange Soda                            2.9                      13
Dr. Pepper                                                   2.9                      10
Vault™ Energy Soda                                2.9                      12
Mountain Dew AMP                             1 2.8                     11
SoBe Energy Citrus                                   2.6                     12
Minute Maid® Lemonade                     2.6                      10
Pepsi                                                             2.5                     11
Diet Schweppes Tonic Water                2.5                      0
Coca-Cola Classic2                                  2.4                      10
Battery Acid                                                 3                        1 0


1 Now called AMP Energy.
2 In some geographical areas U.S. and Canada known simply as “Coca-Cola.”
3 Battery Acid is NOT a drink.
Test by Dr. John Ruby, University of Alabama, Birmingham School of Dentistry, 2007
Minnesota Dental Association: Sip All Day, Get Decay.

Courtesy of  http://drinksdestroyteeth.org/the-unsweetened-truth/

Cold Sores

Cold sores are small, painful, fluid-filled blisters or sores that appear on the lips, mouth, or nose that are caused by a virus. The sores can be painful and usually last a few days. Unlike most viral infections, the cold sore virus is not completely eliminated by the body defenses. For this reason, cold sores often recur.

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Can Sinuses Affect Your Teeth?

By: Thomas P. Connelly, D.D.S.

I once had this patient who had chronic/repeated pain in his upper teeth (basically the premolars and molars on his upper right side). He had been to two different dentists, who did an exam and took X-rays, but really couldn’t find anything wrong with the teeth. But he still had pain. This went on for a year or two.

So one day, he ended up in my chair. And like the dentists before, I took some X-rays, but couldn’t find anything wrong with the teeth themselves. In fact, they were in spectacular shape. So I asked him if there were any other issues he may be experiencing — headaches, jaw pain, etc? He said no — he felt fine, except for the teeth hurting, and the pressure…

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The Different Types of Dental Floss

Entry by Thomas P. Connelly, D.D.S.

As a NYC Cosmetic Dentist, I get asked a lot about dental floss, and which type is the “best.” I have a pretty standard answer for that question, and it goes like this: “Whatever type you will actually use daily.” That’s easily the most important aspect of floss — whether or not it’s actually used.

To begin, let’s quickly go over that “what and why” of flossing: Flossing is running a piece of floss (which resembles thread or string) between your teeth. It cleans away plaque that your toothbrush will miss, and is a very essential part of good oral health. In fact, if you only brush and do not floss, you’re only really doing half the job. So flossing daily is something everyone should do.

Ok, now we know you should be flossing. So you go to the store and look to buy some, and realize that hey, there are a lot of different “types.” Which one should I buy? I’ll go over that in a second, but I do want to preface this with an expanded explanation of my previous answer — the best floss out there is floss that gets used. Floss does you no good sitting in the cabinet — it actually has to be used, and in my opinion, there is no “better” type of floss. Using two different types of floss will not give you two different results. Now, two different types of floss may or may not be as comfortable as each other to use, or may or may not taste as good, etc. So THAT could be a determining factor in you using them. But again, any floss that gets used is good floss. This opinion of mine is shared by most other dentists and the ADA as well, which states “It’s not what type of floss you use, but how and when you use it. If you have a preferred type of floss, you may be more likely to use it.”

So that said, let’s take a look at the different “types” of floss.


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How Do You Treat White Spots After Braces?

How Do You Treat White Spots After Braces?

What are these white spots on my teeth?

A very common problem that can occur while a patient has braces is the formation of white spots during treatment. When the braces are removed, some patients will have unsightly white spots and they  wonder why they are there.

Some patients are surprised and they shouldn’t be. Your orthodontist watches and warns when white spots are forming. The white spots are the decalcified areas of the teeth where plaque was allowed to stay for long periods of time. You will hear your orthodontist say over and over again to keep your teeth clean, brush and floss.

How did the white spots develop?

Heavy Plaque on Patient with Braces

There are many types of bacteria that live in our mouth. They show up after you were born and stay with you your whole life. You can’t get rid of them completely. You can only reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth. We reduce the bacteria by brushing, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash that kills bacteria.

The bacteria streptococcus mutans and lactobacillus are the main germs in dental plaque. Dental plaque is sticky and likes to attach to smooth surfaces of the tooth. These bacteria eat sugars that you eat everyday. When you eat your food, it will contain sugar that the bacteria eats. After the bacteria ingests the sugar, they produce more of themselves and they give off acid for 20 minutes. Since, the plaque is right up against your teeth, the acid dissolves the enamel causing a white decalcification spot to form and eventually it will cause a cavity

A cavity is just a hole in your tooth. These white spots are the beginnings of a cavity. Since the outside layer of the enamel is very hard due to it being enriched with fluoride from our tooth paste, food and water, the decalcification starts below this layer deeper in the enamel. When you look at the surface of the tooth, the outside layer is intact but you can see the white decalcification spot. Once the decalcification weakens the outside layer of enamel enough, it will break through resulting in a hole in the tooth, a cavity.

Once the cavity forms, it will not go away. The bacteria will lay in it and continue the decalcification making the hole larger. As the cavity grows, it can cause pain and it may cause the pulp to die. A cavity has to be repaired by a dentist before it gets too large and the tooth has to be extracted.

Primary or baby teeth have very thin enamel and cavities grow deep quickly. Whereas, with the permanent teeth, the enamel is very thick and a cavity grows slowly.

If you think you have a cavity forming, see your dentist quickly for restoration. Seeing your dentist in a timely manner may prevent tooth loss and cost less.



What can be done to prevent white spots from developing?

Very simple, brush your teeth. Keep the plaque to a minimum. Dig with the bristles of your brush underneath the wire. The plaque will accumulate mainly between the wire and the gums and underneath the wires. Be aggressive.

Do a good inspection after you brush. Look at your teeth. If you see anything on your teeth, it is either plaque or food. Take your toothbrush that you just used and remove it.

Besides using a regular toothbrush, you can also use an electrical tooth brush like an Oral B or Sonicare toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes work very well in reducing plaque and are better than a waterpik. Waterpiks are not good at removing plaque as well as an electric toothbrush. Also waterpiks can push bacteria into the gum tissue if you have gum disease. Don’t use waterpiks to clean your teeth and braces.

What can be done about the white spots?

Ask your orthodontist for a prescription for GC MI Paste. GC MI Paste is a specially formulated paste that remineralizes the enamel. It replenishes the calcium and phosphate lost during acid production by the plaque. Another product that does not require a prescription is Tooth Mousse GC.

Another item that can be prescribed from your orthodontist or family dentist is Colgate’s PreviDent 5000 Plus (Rx only) or Colgate PreviDent 5000 Sensitive (Rx only) tooth paste. Both deliver 5000 ppm of fluoride in a professional strength 1.1% Sodium Fluoride paste. Directions state they you should brush once a day, preferable before bed, for two minutes. In three to six months, caries remineralized by 57% in most patients. These products are not recommended for children under 6 years old.

DMG ICON Infiltrating Resin for White Spot Decalcifications

After the CG MI paste is used for a period of time, and there are still some white spots, an infiltrating resin like DMG ICON can be applied by your family dentist or orthodontist to reduce the appearance of the white spots. This procedure takes just one office visit. After the teeth are cleaned, they are prepared for the resin. The resin infiltrates the enamel and changes the color of the white spot to a more tooth colored enamel. ICON may not completely get rid of all the white spots but it does accomplish a better appearance.

So it’s up to you. If you keep your teeth free from plaque, the chances of a white spot developing will be very minimal.