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What to do about Dry Mouth

August 10th, 2022

Xerostomia, commonly known as dry mouth, is a condition in which the salivary glands in the mouth don’t produce enough saliva. Saliva keeps the mouth moist and cleanses it of bacteria. A lack of it makes for an uncomfortably dry mouth that is also more susceptible to infection and disease.

Symptoms of dry mouth include:

  • Dryness or a sticky feeling
  • Frequent thirst
  • Burning sensations or redness in the throat or on the tongue
  • A sore throat or hoarseness
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or tasting food

Dry mouth usually comes about as a side effect of certain medications or medical conditions, but can also be caused by damage to the salivary glands because of injury or surgery.

If you're experiencing any of the symptoms of dry mouth, here are a few tips for what to do:

Double-check medications: If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications, speak with Drs. Fraker and Cahoon to see if any of these could be causing the dry mouth as a side effect.

There may be ways to alleviate the symptoms.

  • Stay hydrated: Whether you have dry mouth or not, it’s essential to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fresh and pure water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day.
  • Suck or chew on a natural, sugar-free candy or gum: Sucking on candy or chewing gum will keep your salivary glands producing saliva. Healthier versions of sugar-free candy and gum are available these days. Some are made with xylitol, a sugar alcohol that actually helps prevent tooth decay.
  • Add moisture to your living spaces: Try adding a vaporizer to your bedroom or the rooms where you spend the most time. It’s best for your home to have a humidity level of between 40 to 50%. Anything less than 30% is too low. You can measure humidity with a hygrometer, which is easy to find at your local department store or online.

These are just a few general tips, but if you’re experiencing the symptoms of dry mouth often and it’s interfering with your life, pay a visit to our Seattle office. That way you’re more likely to get to the root of the problem.

Hot Day? Three Drinks to Leave Home When You’re Packing the Cooler

August 3rd, 2022

Whew! It’s a hot one! And whenever the temperature soars, you need to stay hydrated, especially when you’re outside or exercising. But all cold drinks aren’t equal when it comes to healthy hydration. Which beverages shouldn’t have a prime spot in your cooler when you’re wearing braces or aligners?

  • Soft Drinks

You’re probably not surprised to find soft drinks at the top of the list. After all, sugar is a) a big part of what makes soda so popular, and b) not a healthy choice for your teeth.

Sugar is a favorite food source for the oral bacteria that make up plaque. These bacteria convert sugar into acids, and these acids attack the surface of your tooth enamel. Over time, the minerals which keep enamel strong begin to erode, and weakened, eroded enamel is a lot more susceptible to cavities.

So, what about sugar-free drinks? Does this make soft drinks a better choice? Unfortunately, you can take the sugar out of many sodas, but you can’t take the acids out. Most soft drinks are very acidic, even without sugar, and will cause enamel erosion just like the acids created by bacteria will.

  • Fruit Drinks

Fruit juice provides us with vitamins, which is great, but it’s also full of natural sugars and acids. And blended fruit drinks and fruit punches often contain added sugars and added citric acids. Best to choose 100% fruit content and check the labels before you buy. (And you can always get refreshing fruit flavor by adding a slice of fruit to a glass of water.)

  • Sports Drinks

You might be surprised to see these on the list—after all, they promise healthy hydration while you’re working out. And hydration is healthy—but sugars and acids aren’t. Even when the label tells you there’s no added sugar, that same label will often reveal high amounts of citric acid. In fact, some sports drinks are more acidic than sodas.

We’ll make an exception, though, for thirsty people who participate in sports or activities that require a lot of physical exercise and produce a lot of sweat. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes, those ionized minerals which help regulate many vital bodily functions. Talk to Drs. Fraker and Cahoon about which sports drinks are best for you if you need to replenish your electrolytes when working out.

So, what’s your best hydration choice on a hot day? Water! It not only hydrates you, it cleans your teeth, it helps you produce saliva, and it often contains tooth-strengthening fluoride. But if you only have sports drinks in the cooler, or if you just want to enjoy a soft drink or a bottle of juice from time to time, no need to go thirsty. We have some ways to make sure your teeth are safer, even with this tricky trio:

  • Rinse with water after you drink a sugary or acidic drink. And remember to brush when you get home.
  • Be choosy. Check labels for added sugars and acids.
  • Don’t sip your drinks all day long. Saliva actually helps neutralize acids in the mouth, but sipping acidic beverages throughout the day doesn’t give saliva a chance to work.
  • Use a straw to avoid washing your enamel in sugars and acids.

You need to keep hydrated when it’s hot. When you’re packing your cooler, choose drinks that are healthy for your entire body, including your teeth and gums. Ask our Seattle team for the best choices in cold drinks to make sure you’re getting the hydration you need—without the sugar and acids you don’t!

How do I handle my child’s dental emergency?

July 27th, 2022

Kids are active, and with lots of activity comes the potential for mishaps. Before an emergency occurs, you’d be smart to stay informed about the problems your child may encounter.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind about teething pain, loose baby teeth, and other common dental issues.

Teething Pain

Discomfort while teething is common for babies from the time they are four months until they are about two and a half. Teething can cause drooling, tender gums, and irritability. To help relieve your child’s discomfort, gently rub his or her gums with wet gauze or offer a cold teething ring.

Loose Baby Tooth

It is normal for a child’s first set of teeth to become loose and fall out. If a tooth is knocked out by a forceful blow, however, you should make an appointment with our office to determine whether any damage may have occurred. You should also book an appointment if the baby tooth that’s on its way out develops a crack but doesn’t fully fall out.

Issues with Permanent Teeth

Sometimes, permanent teeth can come in before the baby teeth have fallen out. In this event, schedule an appointment with us even if your child does not report discomfort or pain. Drs. Fraker and Cahoon will need to determine if the permanent teeth are coming in correctly to avoid problems later on.

Bleeding Gums

Bleeding gums can have multiple causes: periodontal disease, rough brushing, or an injury to the gum tissue. If your child experiences heavy bleeding, it’s vital to call our office immediately. Wash the youngster’s mouth with warm salt water and put gentle pressure on the area to soothe it before your appointment.

Drs. Fraker and Cahoon and our team are always here to address any concerns you may have regarding your child’s dental health. Contact our Seattle office for emergency services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Science of Sugar

July 20th, 2022

Some languages have many different words for love. Some have many different words for snow. One language even has different words for a tasty layered sandwich. Is that a hoagie or a hero you’re having? A sub? Grinder? Po’boy?

“Sugar,” though, is a single word which has taken on many meanings, from casual endearment to monosaccharide molecule. Today, we’re examining scientific definitions, with a short and sweet look at the science of sugar.

Chemistry

First, let’s get basic—all the way down to the molecular level.

Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are the three essential macronutrients which keep our bodies running. Sugars are molecules made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, and all carbohydrates are made of these sugar molecules, from single unit structures to very complicated chains.

Sugars called monosaccharides are the most basic of the carbohydrates. “Monosaccharide” comes from the Greek words for “single” and “sugar,” and monosaccharides are the sugars we mean when we talk about “simple sugars.” Why are they simple? Because a monosaccharide is a single molecule which can’t be broken down into smaller carbohydrates.

While there are several types of monosaccharides, the three major simple sugars are:

  • Fructose—the sugar we get from fruit.
  • Galactose—the sugar found in milk.
  • Glucose—the sugar our bodies use the most. It’s found in plants, and also produced when our bodies break down other carbs. Fun fact—this is the only sugar essential for brain cell function.

When two monosaccharide molecules join together, they form a disaccharide (not surprisingly, from the Greek for “two sugars”). Again, there are quite a few disaccharides, but we tend to concentrate on three in our diets:

  • Lactose (glucose + galactose)—found only in milk and dairy products.
  • Maltose (glucose + glucose)—the sugar chiefly produced by grains.
  • Sucrose (glucose + fructose)—produced in plants. These plants include sugar cane and sugar beets, from which we get our refined table sugars.

The reason sugar molecules are so important is because of how our bodies use them.

Biology

Our bodies use the glucose in carbs for energy. As foods break down, first through digestion and then in the cells, the chemical bonds which hold glucose molecules together break as well. This action releases energy, and this energy fuels all our bodily functions.

But even though we need carbohydrates to keep our bodies going, and even though sugars are the easiest carbs to use for energy, there’s a reason no one recommends a diet filled with extra sugar.

Our bodies get all the sugar they need from the natural sugar in the foods we eat. Natural sugars are found in fruits, dairy products, even some vegetables and grains. Along with that sugar come vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and/or protein.

Extra sugars added during baking or mixing or processing for flavor and sweetness provide none of these nutrients. These sugars are known as “added sugars,” and have more serious consequences than just empty calories.

Once we have the sugars we require, there’s no need for more. Extra sugars are stored in liver, muscle, and fat cells for later use. When we eat too much sugar, this carefully balanced system is upset, with negative effects for, among other things, weight, blood sugar, insulin levels—and our dental health.

Nutrition and Dental Health

You know that a sugar-filled diet often means a cavity-filled checkup. Why? Because it’s not just our bodies that break down sugar for fuel.

The oral bacteria in plaque also need sugars for food, which they use to make acids. An acidic environment in the mouth weakens and dissolves the minerals which keep tooth enamel strong. And these weak spots are vulnerable to decay. A steady diet of sugar-filled foods means that your enamel is constantly under acid attack.

Cutting down on added sugars is one of the easiest and best ways to cut down on added cavities. Reading recipes, checking out labels, learning to recognize added sugars—this is nutritional research which has sweet results.

How to recognize added sugars? Here’s where language gives us plenty of words to fill our linguistic sugar bowl. Whether the ingredients are called agave nectar, honey, molasses, syrups, treacle, or table sugar, they’re really just sugar. More specifically, they’re all sugars made up of glucose and fructose, with at best a trace amount of vitamins and minerals—and usually not even a trace!

To make our lives easier, labels on food packaging now let us know exactly how much of the sugar in any product is “added sugar.” You expect to find a high percentage of sugar on dessert labels, but you might be surprised to read how much sugar is added to foods like energy drinks, sports drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, spaghetti sauce, and many more of the items in your grocery cart. Spend an extra minute examining the label, and save yourself many empty calories.

Monosaccharides, disaccharides, glucose, fructose, maltose, agave syrup, treacle, and on and on—so many words for so many kinds of sugar. When it comes to dental health, let Drs. Fraker and Cahoon have the last word on sugar science. During your next visit to our Seattle office, talk to us about reducing unnecessary sugars in your diet for a future filled with the sweetest of healthy smiles.

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