Category Archives: Health News for Patients

The Health Effects of Too Much Sugar

As pumpkins start to line people’s porches and children get excited about finding a great costume, it can be easy to forget just how much sugar most people eat during the Halloween season. Although the holiday is great fun for everyone, all of that sugar can be hard on children’s little bodies—and the treats you have at home can be hard on yours. Here are just a few of the serious health effects of eating too much sugar, and why you should curb your sugar intake throughout the year.

Less Brain Power


If you feel a little loopy after lunch, it’s not just your imagination. Eating excessive amounts of sugar has been shown to cause reduced performance in the hippocampus, leading to brain fog. Since this portion of the brain is crucial for creating new memories, people who eat high levels of sugar may struggle with remembering key facts and dates, or carrying on a conversation without losing focus. Some researchers even suspect that high sugar levels cause problems with gradual cognitive decline as people age, which is why they are researching the link between sugar intake and degenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dental Decay

Although you may assume that sugar causes dental decay, the real root of the problem lies in the bacteria that those sugars fuel. The human mouth is filled with over 25 different varieties of oral bacteria that consume simple sugars. As these bacteria grow and multiply, they produce acids that can eat away at your dental enamel, causing cavities.

In addition to contributing to dental decay, candies, such as those frequently eaten at Halloween and throughout the holidays, can be exceptionally hard on dental work. Caramel and taffy can pull out dental fillings, and hard candies like peppermints and root beer barrels can cause painful dental fractures.

Extended Hunger

When you eat lots of sugar, your body responds by triggering the pancreas to release extra insulin. The role of insulin is to help the cells of your body to metabolize blood sugar, turning the things that you eat into energy. Unfortunately, when you consume too much sugar, your blood is flooded with insulin, which blocks another crucial hormone called leptin. Since leptin is responsible for triggering the “full” sensation you get when you are satisfied, excessive sugar consumption can lead to you eating more and more food.

Insulin Resistance and Diabetes

If your body is constantly subjected to exceptionally high insulin levels, your cells stop knowing how to respond to the sugar spikes, and your body can become insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is tied to other issues including high blood pressure, fatigue, brain fog, hunger, and extra weight around your stomach area. Over time, the body can become so insulin resistant that it stops knowing how to metabolize sugar altogether, causing full blown diabetes.

Limiting Your Sugar Intake

Fortunately, you can ward off the health problems tied to consuming too much sugar by doing what you can to curb your sugar intake. Start by cutting your sugar levels by avoiding things like sweets, cakes, and candies. If you decide to indulge, enjoy a single slice of cake or a few pieces of candy and then stop. To avoid health problems tied to excessive sugar, men should consume no more than 37.5 grams per day, and women should keep their sugar intake under 25 grams of sugar per day. Read the back of nutrition labels and avoid foods that would max out your sugar allowance in a single sitting. Remember that beverages, including seemingly healthy drinks such as milk, can be high in sugar. For example, a single cup of 2% milk has a staggering 12 grams of sugar.

Visit With Your Family Doctor and Dentist

To learn more about how sugar may have already affected your health, take the time to make an appointment with your family doctor and dentist. If you need to find a dentist in your area, search for “dentist near me” or consult Opt-In Dental Advantage. We maintain networks of great dentists who are committed to practicing according to our code of ethics, so that you can keep your family safe and happy in the dentist’s chair. Find a dentist near you today!

Stop Smoking, Lose Pounds, Get Healthy

Many people smoke to keep their weight down without realizing everything else that is happening to them.  We have all heard about how bad smoking can be for our general health. But, many don’t know how bad it can be for oral health. Smoking not only stains teeth brown and yellow, it also increases gum disease, decay, and tooth loss, and even a deadly form of oral cancer. That means smoking can be more expensive than just a pack of cigarettes.

The CDC reported in 2014 that about 20% of the US population smokes tobacco, causing over 480,000 premature deaths, annually, from cancer, diseases of the heart, lungs, and other related diseases. A known fact is many people won’t quit smoking out of fear of gaining weight. Interestingly, Kruger et al reported in 2005 that obesity from poor diets and lack of exercise is the second leading cause of premature death. So, how do we address all the health issues from smoking without adding the problems associated with weight gain?

The Role of Nicotine

In the 1930’s, cigarette companies began promoting smoking as a way to avoid weight gain. According to research conducted by Lycett and others, tobacco industry suggestions were reinforced by the fact that “approximately 10% of smokers who quit smoking gain close to 30 pounds in weight.” As it turns out, there are good reasons why body weight goes up when people quit smoking. Nicotine initiates the release of chemicals in the brain and central nervous system that decreases hunger and increases metabolism rates. When acting like a diet drug, nicotine also initiates the actions of other chemicals that together, destroy fat cells. Hofstetter reported  that “nicotine increases 24-h energy expenditure by ~10%.” Other deleterious effects of nicotine include “insulin resistance” (diabetic complications) and resistance to inflammation (injury and infection control), as reported by Benowitz, and also reported by Miyazaki.

Controlling Body Weight

When people stop smoking, the effects of nicotine on metabolism (faster) and appetite (decreased), reverses, resulting in weight gain from caloric increase, if there is no balancing increase in exercise. Those seeking support to overcome these problems find only mixed results. McGovern and Benowits reported in 2011, “One group of smokers received standard smoking-cessation counseling, a second group received this counseling plus diet advice to prevent weight gain (that is, weight control), and a third group received the standard smoking-cessation program plus counseling to reduce their concerns about gaining weight.” They found that after 1 year, those who focused on “reducing concerns about weight gain, rather than controlling weight gain itself” had more success with weight control.

Many prefer to take a pill for a quick fix. Unfortunately, as reported by Kenny, “…these medications appear to delay, rather than prevent, post-cessation weight gain.” In fact, their findings indicate that after medications have run their course, weight returns as if no medications had been taken.

Do it Now

As we all know, smoking can lead to a lot of problems, including reports of chronic disease inflammation, constricted arteries, increased blood clotting, cancer, and complications from diabetes. We also know it causes many problems in our mouths that can lead to tooth loss and oral disease. Quitting smoking has always proven difficult. But with the right help, and a personal commitment, our overall health, our oral health, and our general appearance will be improved and extended for many additional years.

Photo from the Quit Smoking Community

Live Longer Through Proper Oral Health Care

Did you know that not cleaning your teeth could lead to death? Italian researchers reported in 2009 that moderately inflamed gums caused narrowing of the carotid artery that leads to the brain. They also found that after teeth cleaning the inflammation disappeared and the carotid artery returned to normal. This is important because, if allowed to continue, narrowing of the carotid artery can lead to devastating cardiovascular disease, such as stroke and even death. The fact is, oral health is related to our broader, general health, and associated with many other diseases.

Connection Between Oral Health and Disease

According to the Mayo Clinic, our oral health can affect, be affected by, or be associated with a variety of diseases, including, heart disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, Sjorgen’s, and even premature and low weight births.

One of the lesser known links is respiratory disease that affects the lungs and other parts that help us breath. These diseases can include a head cold, pneumonia, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which sometimes lead to death. Pneumonia can be caused by oral fluids infested with bacteria that the body fails to control. According to Weidlich and her team of researchers who studied 19 reports, “…there is fair evidence of an association of pneumonia with oral health…” They went on to report “…that improved oral hygiene and professional oral health care reduces the progression or occurrence of respiratory diseases among high-risk elderly adults. A recent prospective study conducted with 697 elderly individuals observed that the adjusted mortality due to pneumonia was 3.9 times higher in subjects with periodontal (gum) disease.”

Diabetes, a disease of insulin deficiency, is another well known disease with close ties to poor oral hygiene and gum disease. The disease elevates sugar levels in blood and oral secretions. The excess sugar increases bacterial plaque that can lead to gum disease, a problem affecting 75% of adult populations. Diabetes is a disease that makes oral conditions worse, which then makes life for the diabetic patient harder than it needs to be. If allowed to fester, deteriorating gums and a weakened immune system from diabetes will hasten the arrival and danger of other diseases.

Treating and Preventing Periodontal Gum Disease

The good news is gum disease is very treatable and preventable. In the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, September, 2013, Dr. M. Gulati referred to our mouths as “ ‘the gateway of the body,’ periodontal disease – ‘a silent disease’ and periopathogens – ‘termites’.” To stop the disease we need to eliminate the “termites,” the bacteria in our mouths cause all the problems. The best way to accomplish both is to first, understand the proper way to clean and floss our teeth, use the right kind of toothbrush, or even better, an electric toothbrush, and visit the dentist on a regular basis for teeth cleaning. Most importantly, if your dentist finds a gum infection beginning, or an infection that has established itself, take care of it right away. It could add years to your life. If you need help finding a dentist near you, please visit our Find a Dentist page.

Published by Dentistry IQ: Survey reveals nearly half of all patients consider visiting their dentist a “necessary evil”

Dentistry IQ Article: February 4, 2016

One out of three Americans admits to being nervous about seeing their dentist, and nearly half consider dental visits a “necessary evil,” according to the results of an online survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of OPT-In Dental Advantage released Feb. 3. The survey found that misconceptions about dental visits persist among a significant portion of Americans.

The survey of more than 2,000 adults also revealed that older patients tend to have more negative perceptions of dental visits than their younger counterparts, and nearly one in five of those polled lack certainty about their personal dental health. Only a meager 18% said they actually “look forward” to time in the dental chair.

One out of three Americans admits to being nervous about seeing their dentist, and nearly half consider dental visits a “necessary evil,” according to the results of an online survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of OPT-In Dental Advantage released Feb. 3. The survey found that misconceptions about dental visits persist among a significant portion of Americans.

The survey of more than 2,000 adults also revealed that older patients tend to have more negative perceptions of dental visits than their younger counterparts, and nearly one in five of those polled lack certainty about their personal dental health. Only a meager 18% said they actually “look forward” to time in the dental chair.

“Despite considerable advancements in preventive care and technology, making dentistry easier and more comfortable than ever before, dental patients still have real concerns about dental visits,” said Dr. Dean Mersky, OPT-In Dental Advantage founder and president.

How can dentists work to change this misconception, which in turn will help their patients relax, and hopefully encourage them to visit their dentist more often?

“As dentists, we tend to focus on the science, the technical and the art of delivering dental care,” Dr. Mersky explained. “We sometimes forget the human side of what we do, the part that cares for our patients’ emotions. There are generally three emotions driving apprehension—the unknown, past experiences, and the natural tendency to avoid perceived danger near our heads. The best thing we dentists can do to help alleviate these emotions is to take the time to understand which are at play, to what extent, and why.”

To help with this effort, OPT-In is launching a dental education campaign, Speaking The Tooth, focused on dispelling patients’ fears by sharing free and accessible information about everything from the reality of how dental insurance works to what patients should ask their dentist at every check-up. Dentists are encouraged to share this information with their patients, empowering both patients and dentists to communicate more openly and effectively, a primary goal of OPT-In.

“Patients are constantly assessing, trying to determine whether they like us and want to return,” Dr. Mersky said. “If they like us, they might refer others. We need to help our patients notice and understand the positives in our offices. We need to make them feel welcome and comfortable in the office environment. Then we need to provide them with focused, quality time to ask questions without interruption. During those discussions, we can allay misgivings and help them understand the advantages of the care we provide. Taking the time to show real interest in patients is the surest way to bridge gaps and build trust.”

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Which Toothpaste is Safest to Use?

What we don’t know about toothpaste could ruin our teeth. If we want to prevent that, we need to read the labels that describe what is in the toothpaste and understand their meaning.

Toothpaste always seems to make our mouths feel clean and refreshed. That’s because of the mint-like flavoring and the foaming nature of most brands. Unfortunately, while the minty flavor and foaming make us feel better, they have nothing to do with cleaning our teeth. The actual cleaning comes from abrasive particles and/or chemical agents. But, abrasiveness can be bad for our teeth, and not all chemical agents work the same.

How Whitening Toothpastes Work

Whitening toothpastes often rely on whitening chemicals, but can also include abrasive particles to clean our teeth. Research shows that chemicals called enzymes slightly “reduced the naturally occurring stains more efficiently than the abrasive paste …” That’s because the abrasive particles remove plaque that is stained, but they won’t whiten enamel, especially in areas difficult for toothbrush bristles to reach.

According to the same research, some whitening toothpastes that are highly abrasive should not be used for more than 4 weeks. Doing so could scrape enamel and damage your teeth. Those low in abrasiveness that contain sodium bicarbonate will remove “considerably more tooth stain” than regular toothpaste, but only after 4 to 6 weeks.

Whitening toothpastes that rely more on enzymes (such as Papain or Bemoelain), destroy the tooth film where bacteria and stain accumulate. Papain, a papaya extract, is reported to have healing properties that reduce inflammation and is kind to enamel because it is non acidic. These are the best properties for whitening sensitive teeth. Additionally, whitening toothpastes with enzymes are reported to have a longer whitening effect after 2 months than those that rely on abrasives, alone, for whitening.

Does Fluoride Toothpaste Help Sensitivity?

Carbonated drinks and fruit juices are naturally acidic and will make sensitive teeth worse. According to research, rinsing with different kinds of fluoride can reduce tooth erosion from acids and abrasives, and reduce sensitivity. Rinsing with stannous fluoride or titanium fluoride had the best results, while sodium fluoride was far less positive.

The best way to minimize sensitivity is to avoid acids, of which carbonated drinks are high on the list. If you are having acids, make sure you use low abrasive toothpaste and brush not sooner than several hours after having consumed acidic substances. As for which toothpaste works best in reducing sensitivity, one research report indicated Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief was more effective than Sensodyne Rapid Relief.

Can Fluoride in Toothpaste Prevent Cavities?

Yes, but not the same for everyone, and in every location. Fluoride must accumulate to prevent cavities because its concentration is normally low. That means, for the best results, we need fluoridated drinking water (which varies by location) along with fluoride toothpaste. Those who are cavity prone or have very sensitive teeth might need their dental professional to apply and/or prescribe stronger fluoride gels or rinses.

Which Tooth Brush Should I Us? Does it Matter?

Which Tooth Brush Should I Use

Plaque around the gums can cause bad breath, infection, and ultimately, lead to tooth loss. However, the precursor of plaque begins to form almost immediately after we brush our teeth. The pre cursor, called, pellicle, is a natural occurring protective layer. But, if allowed to collect debris and bacteria, it will eventually form, plaque, the bad coating we try to remove when we brush and floss our teeth. That’s why most dentists and hygienists recommend brushing for two to three minutes, twice daily.

Manual Toothbrushes

Using a toothbrush the wrong way with the wrong toothpaste can saw your teeth in half and cause gum recession. With enough damage, your teeth can become brittle and break.

Toothbrush bristles can be soft, medium or, stiff, can have rounded or jagged tips, and have straight or irregular bristle rows. Dentists generally agree with research that shows hard bristles are better at removing plaque but sometimes disagree on other factors about stiffness. According to research, anything abrasive to your teeth, like using “gritty” toothpaste, can be damaging. Consequently, it is better to use non abrasive toothpaste. You will also want to ask your dental team the best way to brush without causing damage.

Cheap toothbrushes very often have jagged, blade-like, tips that can cut the gums (Research) and lead to inflammation and infection. You always want to use a toothbrush with rounded tips, like the one in the photo from SuperSmile. Designed by a dentist, Dr. Irwin Smigel, it has medium stiffness and very nicely rounded bristle tips.

Most toothbrushes have straight rows and flat alignment to their bristles. Some have bristles angled in different directions. The tooth brush in the photo has an arc shape to the bristles that when angled 45°, allows only bristle tips to contact the teeth when brushing correctly. The center row of bristles at the peak of the arc can more easily access the hard to reach areas of the gums. But, some toothbrush manufactures have designed their bristles to angle in different directions, promising to be more effective. However, research shows those tested with multi angled bristle rows perform no better than those with straight rows. Make sure to ask your dental team for a toothbrush recommendation. They have seen the results and will know best.


Power Toothbrushes

Most research tells us that power tooth brushes, with hundreds of movements per use, clean our teeth better than manual toothbrushes. That’s important because, the longer plaque stays, the faster it grows. Using a power toothbrush has been shown by research to be much more predictable at removing plaque than is a manual toothbrush.

Many dental professionals recommend power toothbrushes, but which power toothbrush works best? According to at least one report, the oscillating type is better at removing plaque after both 4 and 12 weeks, than a purely sonic type. However, because the findings were only observations, not real research, the authors ultimately reported that both power toothbrushes were superior to manual toothbrushes. It’s best to ask your dentist about their experience and recommendation.



Most importantly, we need to brush twice per day for at least 2 minutes with non abrasive tooth paste. And, if possible, we should try to use a power toothbrush with the same non abrasive toothpaste.

In all cases, it is equally important to floss and brush correctly, techniques your dentist or dental hygienist can show you. A great time to review these techniques is during your teeth cleaning, which for most people, should be twice each year.

Do You Really Need a Root Canal?

When people hear the words, “root canal,” the scenario that often comes to mind is that of a painful dental procedure that costs too much money. But those popularly held misconceptions are just that: misconceptions. In fact, the only pain you should be thinking about when your dentist recommends a root canal is the pain that is, or will be, caused by the infection in your tooth.

Your root canal will involve the use of a local anesthetic that numbs the area around the tooth, and the tooth itself. Dentists can even offer a calming medicine, like nitrous oxide, to ensure the experience is as painless as possible. You don’t need to buy into the stereotype that a root canal has to be an extremely painful experience.

A root canal is an excellent solution for those who want to save their teeth. More good news is that you should not assume the affected tooth will have to be extracted in the future. The vast majority of root canal treatments are terrific successes that are pain-free.

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