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Your Mouth and You: All About Tongues

 

Tongues – we use ours for talking, eating, and swallowing. It’s the primary (but not the only) way we taste our food. It helps us manipulate food from our front teeth for tearing to our back teeth for chewing. We use it every day, but we probably hardly ever think about it – and yet, our tongues are one of the most interesting muscle groups in our entire body!

So if you’re working on developing a better understanding of your mouth and how to take care of it, knowing a little bit more about your tongue can go a long way toward helping you keep it healthy! That’s why, in today’s blog, we’re dispelling a few common myths and sharing some fun facts about the tongue.

Putting That Tongue To Work

When it comes to the tongue, there are plenty of myths out there, one of them being that, relative to its size, your tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body. It turns out that isn’t quite true – partially because your tongue isn’t just one muscle. The tongue is actually a grouping of eight different muscles that intertwine together to operate. This grouping is referred to as a muscular hydrostat, and consists primarily of muscles with no skeletal support. One of the most well-known comparisons in other animals? An elephant’s trunk!

And when it comes to keeping your tongue working well, you definitely need to do more than just flap it for exercise. The tongue naturally has a high fat volume, and increases in this volume have been correlated with general obesity. According to various studies, your tongue can actually accumulate fat along with the rest of your body – an issue that can cause obstructive sleep apnea in adults with obesity.

Let’s Talk Taste

On average, most adults have between 2000-4000 taste buds built into their mouth. The sensory cells in the taste buds are responsible for the ways in which we perceive taste – and although there are old wives’ tales suggesting that we develop “new” taste buds every seven years, our taste buds actually renew themselves much more frequently, every week or so.

When it comes to taste, everyone is different. Approximately a quarter of all adults fit into a classification called “supertasters” – these folks are able to detect certain tastes more intensely, especially bitter tastes. And if you’ve ever heard anyone say that cilantro tastes like soap, they’re probably not kidding! It turns out, though, that this sensation is more closely linked to the olfactory senses (our sense of smell) – individuals that get a soapy taste from cilantro are more sensitive to the scent of aldehyde chemicals, which are found in cilantro and soap.

On The Front Lines

As you know by now, the human tongue is pretty dynamic – and not just in the ways we use it every day. Tongues can also be an important tool when it comes to detecting disease and other health problems. For example, painful bumps on the tongue might just be canker sores (mouth ulcers), or they might be an indication of something more serious.

Similarly, white spots or a white coating on the tongue can be indicative of something simple, such as oral thrush (a type of yeast infection) – but they can also be caused by leukoplakia, which can be a precursor to cancer. If there’s something out of the ordinary going on with your tongue, it’s a good idea to see your dentist or your primary care doctor to determine whether it’s a simple problem or a warning sign of something bigger.

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Four Ways Your Dentist Keeps You Calm (Without You Knowing)

Being a dentist isn’t just about going to dental school and learning the anatomy of the mouth – there are plenty of tools and tricks that can’t be taught in the classroom, not the least of which is bedside manner. After all, if you can’t make someone comfortable, how do you expect to be able to stand there with your fingers in their mouth for a half hour?

Just like a physician, dentists work with all sorts of patients – kids, adults, seniors – and all of them react differently to being in the big chair. It’s all too common for patients to have an internalized fear or phobia of visiting the dentist, but that shouldn’t stop you from receiving excellent care for your mouth.

So with that in mind, today we’re taking an inside look at a few things dentists do to make you more comfortable and put you at ease – without you even knowing!

Just Keep Waiting

Not all waiting rooms are created equal – but in most cases, there are some common elements that you can probably recall seeing over the years. For example, waiting room music? It’s not mandatory that you like smooth jazz to be a dentist; however, it’s been proven numerous times that certain types of music have the ability to relax patients and reduce stress/anxiety during their wait.

Another great waiting room staple? The dentist’s office fish tank. These items aren’t just there for decoration, they’re another source of calm and relaxation. The gentle splash of the water, the lazy swimming of the fish – it’s all there to keep you cool and take your imagination from running wild about what’s going to happen once you’re in the chair.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

It may seem like the tray of tools that the dentist uses is always just out of sight – and that’s for a reason! These trays are typically covered with a sterile towel or cloth prior to your exam, and they’re only uncovered once the dentist has you leaning back comfortably. Why? Well, in addition to keeping their cleaning implements sterile, they want to avoid the panic that comes along with seeing a bunch of scary-looking objects that are about to go in your mouth.

Cat Got Your Tongue?

You might think your dentist is a chatterbox – and it might even frustrate you, because you can never answer any of his or her questions while they’re working away on your teeth. So why do they bother asking? The questions serve as a distraction. If you’re focused on trying to answer a question, you aren’t thinking about the little pokes, prods, and pinches that are going on around your tongue.

And don’t worry, your dentist has gotten pretty good at learning how to interpret patients, even when their mouth is full. So go ahead and answer – they can probably figure out what you’re saying.

Sedation Dentistry

When push comes to shove, some people just have such deeply ingrained anxiety about the dentist that a simple office visit and exam can send them over the edge. That’s why sedation dentistry was created – to help even the most challenging patients get the dental care they need. And when you elect to try sedation dentistry, there are other benefits too! When your body is more relaxed, your dentist has better control over their work and doesn’t have to worry as much about twitching, spasms, or gagging. This allows them to work faster and more effectively, saving everyone time and money.

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Your Mouth & You: All About Teeth

Thirty white horses on a red hill,

First they champ,

Then they stamp,

Then they stand still.

– The Hobbit

Denticles, chompers, fangs, pearly whites. We use them every day, but how much do you really know about your teeth? Most people take their teeth for granted, at least until something goes wrong, whether it’s an ache, a chip, or something more serious. So when it comes to keeping your teeth in good shape, it’s important that you know why it’s important – and that’s why in today’s blog, we’re talking about all things toothy.

Tooth Development

As you probably know already, humans have two sets of teeth – their primary (baby) teeth and their permanent (adult) teeth, both of which grow and take shape in stages. The primary set contains just 20 teeth, while the permanent set contains 32 teeth in most adults. The timing is different, but the development of each set of teeth is fairly similar – here’s what you should know.

First and foremost, tooth development begins long before the first tooth ever becomes visible. A baby’s first tooth usually appears around six months, but development of those teeth starts in the second trimester while the baby is still in the womb! Once teeth start popping up from the gums (the process commonly referred to as “teething” in infants), they tend to erupt in parallels – that means that a molar on your left side should grow at about the same rate as the same molar on your right.

Adult teeth tend to grow in between 6-12 years of age and push out the baby teeth by loosening their roots. Permanent teeth are larger, and take longer to grow in than primary teeth, which is why the process of losing teeth can take months (or years) in most children.

Parts of the Tooth

Each tooth has four distinct parts, each of which serves a different purpose in keeping your teeth happy and healthy. These parts are:

  • Enamel is the top layer of the tooth and covers the tooth crown – it’s harder than bone and protects the tooth from decay.
  • Dentin is under the enamel and looks similar to bone, and provides an extra layer of protection (although it’s not quite as hard as enamel).
  • Cementum is a tissue covering the tooth root, which helps anchor it to the bone. It is softer than enamel and dentin, and is usually covered by the gums.
  • Pulp is found at the center of your tooth, and contains the blood vessels, nerves, and other tissues that deliver nutrients and nerve signals to your teeth.

Types of Teeth

Most mammals have an array of different teeth in their mouth, each of which has evolved over time to serve a variety of purposes. In humans, there are four major types of teeth:

  • Incisors. Your permanent teeth include eight incisors at the front of your mouth, four on top and four on the bottom. These teeth are used to take a bite out of food, tearing away smaller pieces appropriately sized for chewing. Incisors are typically the first teeth to develop and appear.
  • Canines. Canines are the sharpest teeth in your mouth, and are generally used for ripping and tearing food apart. In primary teeth, the upper canines tend to come in before the lower ones. In permanent teeth, the order is reversed and lower canines tend to pop out first.
  • Premolars. Premolars, also known as bicuspids, are typically used to chew and grind food. There are four premolars on each side of the mouth – two on the upper jaw and two on the lower.
  • Molars. Molars make up the balance of our 32 teeth and, like the premolars, are also used for chewing and grinding food. Some people (not all) develop third molars – commonly referred to as wisdom teeth – which sometimes need to be removed to avoid problems caused by crowding.
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Tasty (and Tooth-Friendly!) Summer Cocktails

Summer is a great time to celebrate all kinds of occasions (or to celebrate for no reason at all) while enjoying the company of friends and family. Nothing beats sitting on the deck or in the backyard with a nice, refreshing cocktail on a warm summer night. There’s just one problem – most pre-made cocktail bases and drink recipes are filled with tons of sugar, which can be a big setback for your oral (and overall) health.

If you’re looking for a tooth-friendly way to enjoy the season, we’ve got you covered. Today we’re going to showcase three awesome summer drink recipes that are low in sugar and high in deliciousness. With one of these in hand, you’ll wonder how you ever lived off those store-bought mixers.

Skinny Margarita

Ingredients

Margarita salt (coarse kosher salt)

1.5 oz tequila

2 tbsp lime juice (fresh or bottled)

¼ cup water

¼ tsp orange extract

1 tbsp Stevia (or other sugar substitute)

Ice

Preparation

  1. Prep the rim of your margarita or martini glass with lime juice or water, and dip the edges onto a small plate with your salt.
  2. Using a cocktail shaker (protein shaker bottles make a great substitute in a pinch!), combine all other ingredients and shake until well mixed.
  3. Pour your drink into your salted glass through a mesh strainer, add a few ice cubes, and serve. For a frosty treat, blend your mixture with ice until it reaches a slushy consistency.

Low Carb Cosmo

Ingredients

1.5 oz vodka

1 oz diet cranberry juice (not light)

1 tbsp lime juice (fresh or bottled)

2-3 drops orange extract

2-4 tsp Stevia (or other sugar substitute)

Lime wedge (for garnish)

Ice

Preparation

  1. Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker half-full of ice and shake well until blended.
  2. Taste for sweetness and add additional sweetener if necessary.
  3. Strain into a martini glass, garnish with lime, and serve.

Sugar-Free Strawberry Daiquiri

Ingredients

½ cup frozen or fresh strawberries

1 tbsp lime juice

1.5 oz rum

2 tsp Stevia (or other artificial sweetener)

Ice (use less if berries are frozen)

Note: If using fresh berries, be sure to wash, hull, and slice prior to blending.

Preparation

  1. Combine ingredients into a blender and process until well blended and slushy. Taste for sweetness and add additional sweetener as necessary.
  2. Pour into a tall glass, garnish with a slice or two of fresh strawberry, and serve.
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Dental Detective: Five Surprising Health Conditions Your Dentist Can Spot Early

You may have heard in the past that your optometrist is a great first line of defense against diseases that are more successfully treated when identified early. But did you know that regular visits to your dentist can be just as important when it comes to screening for these potentially life threatening conditions?

Your mouth is one of the major gateways to your body, and warning signs and symptoms can often show up there first. To show you what we mean, today we’re looking at a few conditions and warning signs that your dentist might pick up on before anyone else.

1. Heart Disease

Wondering what one of the most serious conditions that your dentist might be the first to spot is? Heart disease. Inflamed gums and loose teeth can be a big red flag when it comes to identifying issues with your ticker, and according to the American Heart Association, individuals that receive biannual dental checkups and cleanings are 24% less likely to have a heart attack and have a 14% lower risk of suffering from a stroke.

Why? Well, for starters, conditions like periodontitis can lead to bacteria traveling from your mouth to your heart, contributing to coronary heart disease. Bacteria can also lead to increased plaque build-up in your arteries and promote the formation of deadly blood clots. One study showed that individuals with inflamed or infected pockets around their gums were over 50% more likely to suffer a heart attack.

2. Dementia

Poor oral health isn’t just a warning sign for dementia – it can be a factor in causing it! Just like your heart, bacteria causing an infection in your mouth can make its way throughout your body, including causing inflammation in your brain. The forgetfulness and departure from daily routines caused by dementia only serve to make the problem worse, leading to a decline in oral and overall health.

3. Diabetes

One of the most common health issues for diabetics? Gum disease. Bleeding or inflamed gums and loose teeth are a big warning that an individual might be diabetic. The problem is compounded by the fact that another common issue with diabetes is a slower healing time, leading to chronic issues.

4. Eating Disorders

It’s common for people with anorexia or bulimia to attempt to hide their condition – but dentists can be one of the first to spot the warning signs of an eating disorder. One of the major red flags is loose teeth and bleeding gums, which can be caused by poor nutrition.

Additionally, erosion on the insides of the teeth may be a sign of forced vomiting in a bulimic person, since stomach acid wears away at the enamel and makes teeth more sensitive.

5. Gastroesophogeal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Significant erosion on the enamel from the teeth, especially on the molars, may be a red flag for Gastroesophogeal Reflux Disease, or GERD. This condition is similar to common acid reflux but is especially prominent at night, which means you may not even realize you’re suffering from it.

GERD, however, isn’t just heartburn – chronic reflux can also erode the lining of your esophagus, leading to permanent damage and even increasing your risk of esophageal cancer. But with regular dental screenings, the warning signs of GERD can be identified and treatment can be sought early.

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Brushes and Bristles: Choosing the Right Toothbrush

It’s a common scene – you walk into the oral care aisle at the department or grocery store, and you’re overwhelmed by the selection of toothbrushes. Manual or powered, hard or soft bristles, long or short handle… the variety can be dizzying and leave you confused about what’s best for you.

The short answer is… there is no right answer for everyone! A lot of your toothbrush selection should involve finding something that is comfortable for you – something that doesn’t irritate your mouth, cause you pain, and leaves you feeling like all of your teeth have been thoroughly cleaned. And once you find something you like, try to stick with it. But in order to get there, you may have some important questions, and today we’re going to try to answer them.

What Type Of Bristles Should I Get?

The first stop for this question is your dentist – they know your mouth better than almost anyone, and can make a great recommendation on whether you should be using soft, medium, or firm/hard bristles. Additionally, a lot of this choice rests on the sensitivity of your gums. You definitely don’t want a brush that’s going to hurt your mouth and cause you to avoid brushing your teeth.

That said, many dental professionals agree that soft-bristled, small-headed brushes are best for keeping your mouth free of plaque and bacteria, because they can cover those hard to reach places and won’t irritate most peoples’ gums.

Should I Use A Powered Or Manual Brush?

Manual brushing is a classic, and it’s also the most affordable kind of toothbrush available. Your dentist most likely gives you a new manual brush after every cleaning, and you can replace them cheaply and easily at any grocery or department store.

That said, powered toothbrushes can be a big step up when it comes to keeping your mouth clean, because the electronic motor can agitate the brush more quickly than you can on your own. Additionally, powered toothbrushes are a great alternative for individuals that have difficulty brushing, such as in cases of limited dexterity or fine motor skills.

How Often Should I Replace My Toothbrush?

No matter what kind of toothbrush you use, it has one job – to keep your mouth clean and free of harmful bacteria. Over time, the bristles on your brush will wear down and collect bacteria from the air in your home. A worn-out brush won’t do as good of a job at cleaning your teeth, so a general rule of thumb is to replace your brush every three months or when it shows noticeable wear, whichever comes first.

Additionally, it’s important to note that any time you are sick – with a cold, the flu, etc. – you should replace your toothbrush immediately. Otherwise, you may be at risk for reinfection, since your brush may collect germs while you’re feeling under the weather.

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Biannual Checkups: Four Crucial Reasons Not To Miss Yours

Let’s face it. Most people don’t love going to their biannual checkup at the dentist every six months. Whether you have a tight schedule or dental anxiety, getting these regular checkups done can be all too easy to justify skipping.

That said, your regular dental checkup is one of the most important health habits you can have. Routine cleanings, preventive care, and early detection for numerous problems can all make skipping these appointments a lot more expensive in the long run, and can pose a risk to your health if a problem goes overlooked. What do we mean? Let’s take a look:

1. Plaque, Tartar and Cavities

First things first – let’s cover the basics. At every checkup, your dentist (or dental hygienist) will do a thorough examination and cleaning of your teeth. If you brush and floss regularly, they may not uncover much – but chances are still good that they’ll clean up some hard to reach spots that need a little extra attention.

In the long run, having your teeth cleaned regularly is far easier (and cheaper) than getting fillings or other dental work done. Paying the dentist a visit every six months can help rid your mouth of harmful plaque that can erode your teeth, causing cavities or worse. Even if you do end up with cavities, getting them treated sooner rather than later is always your best bet.

2. Oral Cancer Detection

Cancer is serious, and the oral variety is no exception. Thankfully, unlike some types of cancer, oral cancer is usually treatable – especially if it’s caught early! Your dentist and their staff are highly trained experts when it comes to spotting the warning signs and symptoms of oral cancer. And recognizing oral cancer early on is critical to successful treatment, so while you may not notice any of the red flags that indicate the presence of cancer, your dentist likely will.

3. Gum Disease

You’ve probably heard of gingivitis, even if it was only during a TV commercial. But gingivitis – an infection of the gums – is pretty serious. Just like tooth decay, gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque and tartar, which cause the gum to pull away from the tooth and become inflamed or infected. As the infection advances, the gum tissue pulls further away from the teeth and breaks down, sometimes leading to permanent damage. Treatment of gum disease is expensive and time consuming, and can be avoided with regular dental visits.

4. Head Check

In addition to all of the attention they’ll pay to your teeth, your dentist is going to check a lot more than just what’s on the surface. They’ll likely want to do x-rays to look for any problems beneath the surface, such as impacted teeth, bone decay, swelling, cysts or tumors. An experienced dentist will also check your head, neck and lymph nodes for any swelling or other abnormalities. Discovering warning signs in a routine checkup can lead to early detection of a potentially major issue and give you the opportunity to seek early treatment, addressing the problem before it becomes serious.

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Four All-Natural Ways to Whiten Your Teeth At Home

You’ve spent years building up the habits – brushing and flossing are just a natural part of your morning and evening routines. You visit the dentist regularly and have perfect teeth – straight, cavity-free, and healthy. And yet when you flash those pearly whites… they’re not exactly pearly or white.

Your teeth can be strong and healthy, and still be an off-white color. But don’t fret – if having a gleaming white smile is important to you, there are some chemical-free options available to help boost your smile’s glow.

1. Snack Smart

Food choices can have a big impact on your overall oral health, but when it comes to whitening, there’s one food group that you should definitely eat more of – fruits! In addition to being healthy and delicious, fruits boast natural acids that oxidize the stains on your teeth, leaving them sparkly clean. Your best bets are common choices like strawberries, apples, pears and oranges. Stay away from lemons, since their acid content is actually too high and can cause damage to the enamel of your teeth if eaten in large quantities.

2. It’s Electric!

We know – you’ve been using the same brand of manual toothbrush for your entire life and you can’t even imagine changing now! But did you know that electric toothbrushes are specifically designed with a motor powerful enough to break up stains that manual brushing can’t? If you’ve been holding out on switching to an electric toothbrush, it may be worth a shot to get those teeth clean and bright!

3. All Chewed Up

Those gum commercials might seem too good to be true, but sugarfree gum actually can have a positive effect on your oral health! Chewy foods like gum, raisins, or fruit leather all take a little more effort to eat and stimulate your mouth to produce more saliva, which acts like a natural mouthwash as it helps to wash away stains and leftover food particles.

4. Make Your Own Paste

Does your toothpaste contain baking soda? If so, that’s because baking soda is a very powerful whitening agent! But if you’re still looking to up the ante, it’s easy to make your own whitening solution with the same baking soda that’s sitting in your pantry – just mix a tablespoon of baking soda with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide and spread the mixture on your teeth. Give it a few moments to work, then rinse and spit. Just remember, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide can damage your enamel and gums if overused, so only put this tip to work once in a while.

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Comprehensive Dentistry Is The Only Way I Practice!

Comprehensive Dentistry is a standard of care that every patient should receive and is a principal I have practiced for more than 20 years. More than just an assessment of ones dental health, it is a sequential approach to treatment that involves many factors one of which is understanding your patients medical history before determining treatment options. Likewise, what most patients don’t understand is that your mouth is the gateway to your body and you cannot properly assess your overall health without understanding your current dental condition.

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