The Ice Chewing Dilemma

Your teeth and the surrounding jaw muscles present a powerhouse capable of crushing even the hardest foods to pieces. But sometimes we use our teeth in ways that push them to the limit and lead to unnecessary problems and treatment. Learn about one habit that may accelerate the breakdown of your teeth and how to read the symptoms your teeth share with you.

Enjoying a cold drink usually involves a little ice. Sometimes larger pieces are hard to resist as teeth crunch them into smaller fragments. The sound of ice crystals shattering reverberates across a room unlike any other chewing activity; up to 250 pounds of force may be needed to break ice cubes with your teeth! Some people who chew ice may suffer from an iron deficiency and inflammation of the tongue. But ice-chewing often becomes a habit that simply needs to be broken.

This unique chewing habit carries a higher risk of damage to your teeth than chewing many other types of hard foods. Your teeth are made of mineralized layers that protect the soft inner nerve and blood supply found at the center of each one. Enamel, the hardest substance in your body, provides a unique armor as the outer layer. Intricate crystal rods comprise this remarkable covering, although it’s relatively brittle without the support of the layer underneath it.

If you compress firmly on an ice cube, an extreme temperature change occurs in the crystallized enamel. As the temperature suddenly drops, the crystal expands slightly. The temporary tension releases as the temperature rises again, a process amplified by the jaw force crushing the ice. Microfractures often form in teeth after thousands of normal chewing cycles. Ice accelerates the process.

Heed The Warning

Sometimes a cracked tooth gives you warning signs. But in other cases, the first clue is when a large chunk of tooth breaks off. Many of these teeth have large silver fillings in them and may appear dark from the amalgam staining that occurs over time. A broken tooth may be sensitive to cold and hot or have sharp edges that annoy the tongue, although they rarely ache. Don’t be fooled: a broken tooth needs attention to prevent further problems from developing down the road.

In other cases, a tooth sends you warning signals that it’s cracked and in danger of getting worse. If your tooth twinges with a cold drink but feels fine to chew on, it’s probably not damaged. If you’ve tried a sensitivity toothpaste for a couple of weeks without any change, you still might want to find out the cause. But if you bite down on certain foods and experience a sharp, sudden pain in the same area, you’d better schedule to see us. Usually, this means the crack is expanding slightly under pressure and will likely worsen over time.

What Do I Do?

A cracked tooth can usually be saved even when a piece breaks off. But if you’re experiencing bite pain and wait too long, the tooth may split and need to be removed. Teeth that ache for an extended period of time after chewing or hurt out-of-the-blue may have deeper cracks. Many of them can still be salvaged.

Your teeth handle a lot of use and abuse. But chewing ice leads to extra stress and possible problems that you just don’t need. Crunching on ice or hard candies may also damage porcelain restorations or other types of fillings. Many of these materials mimic tooth structure and can break if they’re misused.

If you’re experiencing any of the alarm bells mentioned above, we’ll help you sort out the reasons and the most conservative options for care. A couple of simple tests by Dr. Kevin Kay helps confirm a crack and the best ways to limit the damage. So next time you’re tempted to break an ice cube in half with your teeth, let it melt…your teeth will thank you for it!

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What’s Behind Bad Breath?

When you wake up in the morning, no one expects your breath to smell very good. With a few good hygiene habits, your breath is usually ready for the day. But if you’re struggling with bad breath, or you suspect it might be a problem, we have a few tips to kick this social issue to the curb. Learn more here about the real causes and how to keep your breath fresh every day.

Some topics are a little hard to broach, especially if we feel ashamed or embarrassed. Bad breath can be that way. It leaves us ignoring a social issue that’s easily eliminated with the right approach.  Or we might try masking our breath with tricks that encourage more problems to develop.  Understanding the causes of mouth odors marks the first step to finding an effective solution.

What Makes That Smell?

In the world around us, wind moves across the landscape and picks up invisible odor molecules generated from the dynamic environment it passes through.  Whether it’s the sweetness of lavender or the stench of rotting vegetation, these microscopic particles reach our noses, bind to receptors, and send a message.

As we breathe, the rush of air moves across the lining of our airway and mouth.  Just like a breeze outside, breath picks up odors and sends a message to those in its path. Your diet can contribute by adding odors from compounds absorbed into your bloodstream. Think garlic breath, a smell which often excretes through your pores, too!

In some cases, bad breath results from medical conditions like diabetes, chronic bronchitis, liver disease, or respiratory tract infections.  Certain medications may also contribute to the problem by altering saliva production and causing a dry mouth.  If you suspect any of these possibilities, be sure to talk to your medical doctor.

The Real Culprit

Studies show that about 80% of bad breath cases result directly from the mouth and the bacteria thriving there. Millions of oral bacteria produce sulfur gases and other compounds that smell unpleasant. Since it’s challenging to detect your own breath, try sniffing floss after you’ve used it to get an idea of lurking odors.

Cavities, gum disease, unclean dentures, or tonsil problems may all contribute to this nagging relationship inhibitor. Stay on schedule with your preventive dental visits to be sure any disease activity is eliminated.  Untreated gum disease is also the number one cause of tooth loss in adults. Together we can stop bad breath and help you keep your smile healthy.

Sometimes you’re practicing excellent oral hygiene but still feel frustrated by unpleasant mouth odors. If you’ve eliminated the other possibilities, it’s time to take a better look at your tongue.  The top of the tongue is covered in a forest of papillae, projections that support taste buds and provide a textured surface to aid tactile sensation. But the velvety surface traps dead cells, food debris, and bacteria.  Sulfur gases produced by bacteria contribute to the odiferous mix, and a coating forms across the tongue.  When this coating thickens, your taste may also be altered as the odor intensifies.

An Odor Killer

Even though you remember to brush and floss, don’t forget the benefits of cleaning your tongue at least once a day. Scrubbing with a brush helps a little, but a tongue cleaner is a unique device that you draw gently across the surface of the tongue.  Like a gentle rake, it removes the debris embedded in the papillae.  Finishing with an anti-bacterial mouthwash may help freshen your breath. Be aware that many rinses contain alcohol and could dry out your mouth and exacerbate the issue.  A fluoride rinse is often the best choice, while other patients benefit from mouthwashes formulated specifically for difficult bad breath cases.  Rather than briefly masking odors, these mild rinses neutralize sulfur gases. We can discuss the options and customize a choice for you.

Be careful with other masking techniques such as sugared mints or candies. Excess sugar exposure can quietly create an environment where cavities thrive and cause bigger problems. If you like using mints, look for those sweetened with xylitol.  Xylitol tastes great and works to destroy cavity-causing bacteria.

If you keep regular visits with your hygienist, you’ll always have a partner for excellent oral health.  Finding the right strategies and tools will keep your teeth and gums healthy….and your breath fresh as the summer breeze!

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Teeth That Go The Distance

When you consider what teeth go through, it’s amazing how well they hold up. In a warm, moist environment they undergo a barrage of forces.  Bacterial toxins wash over them while acidic foods and drinks flood their mineralized surface.  So should teeth wear out and eventually be removed?  Or can you expect them to last a lifetime?  Learn more about how you can put yourself on the right side of dental health HERE!

Create a oral health care plan that will go the distance.

Excitement abounds when kids lose their first tooth.  A series of fly-ins from the tooth fairy result in a little extra spending money and lifetime memories. The visits start to wind down by age 12 when most of the adult teeth have emerged.  Wisdom teeth may even move into place a few years later, although many teenagers benefit from having these third molars removed.

A focus on prevention has helped more people keep their teeth throughout their lives than ever before. In 1960, nearly half of adults between the ages of 65-74 had lost all of their teeth. In 2012, the number of people experiencing complete tooth loss had plummeted to just over 13%. This equates to millions of additional lives that benefit from natural chewing with their own teeth.

The Silent Battle

While general dental health has improved in the U.S. population, many people struggle to maintain their teeth. The Center for Disease Control released a retrospective study in 2012 that highlighted these facts:

  • Among adults between the ages of 20-64, 91% had experienced tooth decay, and 27% had untreated tooth decay.
  • Adults between the ages of 40-64 were twice as likely to have lost all their teeth (67%) compared with those between the ages of 20-39 (34%).
  • About 20% of adults age 65 and older had untreated tooth decay

Education, access to care, and improved treatment options have reduced the number of people afflicted with dental problems.  Yet too many people continue to suffer from cavities and gum disease. In fact, tooth decay ranks as the most prevalent childhood disease in the U.S. Cavities result from harmful oral bacteria usually passed from mother to child.  Without preventive intervention, the destructive process marches into the new adult teeth during the teen years.

Gum disease is another bacterial affliction that dramatically increases the risk of tooth loss over time. About 30% of the population battle gum disease, and it’s the number one reason adults lose their teeth. Just one missing tooth can disrupt the complex function of chewing, stress the remaining teeth, and lead to more fractured or missing teeth.

What Can You Do?

Widespread public health measures have helped improve general dental health across the country, although not always without controversy. Water fluoridation, professionally sealing grooves in molars, and school outreach programs make up part of the preventive formula. But there’s no substitute for individuals who emphasize their own wellness. Consistent oral hygiene habits and a periodic routine with a dental team lead to results that are hard to beat.

While everyone knows they should brush and floss, a personalized strategy that weighs your history, health, age, and budget leads to the most effective results. Some of the options that we may blend to create an individual’s plan include:

  • Daily doses of Xylitol natural sweetener
  • Prescription anti-bacterial rinses
  • Professional application of varnishes to harden teeth
  • Prescription-strength toothpaste
  • Waterpik use with or without water additives
  • Custom trays to apply medicines at home
  • Saliva stimulants
  • Analysis of current medications affecting your mouth

Many patients want to keep their teeth through every stage of life, but they’re not sure how to accurately control the complex biology that frequently leads to dental disease. Short and long-term care plans consider many critical factors, from saliva volume and pH to general health and medications.

Age-related changes are inevitable, but tooth loss doesn’t have to be part of the process. At Kevin Kay DDS, we help patients maintain their teeth for a lifetime of wellness. A personalized strategy for dental health can be created with ongoing monitoring and coaching by our team. Enjoy years of comfortable chewing, a brilliant smile, and the confidence that comes with it!

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