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Aging and Oral Health

October 18th, 2017

As you age, it becomes even more important to take good care of your teeth and dental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-fourth of adults age 65 and older have no remaining teeth. What's more, nearly one-third of older adults have untreated tooth decay.

Oral health, regardless of age, is crucial to overall good health. Ideally, we all want to keep your natural teeth, but whether you're caring for natural teeth or dentures, advancing age may put older adults at risk for a number of oral health problems, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diminished sense of taste
  • Root decay
  • Gum disease
  • Uneven jawbone caused by tooth loss
  • Denture-induced tissue inflammation
  • Overgrowth of fungus in the mouth
  • Attrition (loss of teeth structure by mechanical forces)
  • Oral cancer

These conditions may not be diagnosed until it is too late. If you want to feel good, stay healthy, and look great throughout life, you might be surprised what a difference a healthy mouth makes.

Here are some tips for maintaining and improving your oral health as you become older:

  • Brush twice a day with a toothbrush with soft bristles. You may also benefit from using an electric toothbrush.
  • Clean between your teeth once a day with floss or another interdental cleaner.
  • If you wear full or partial dentures, remember to clean them on a daily basis. Take your dentures out of your mouth for at least four hours every day. It’s best to remove them at night.
  • Drink tap water. Since most contains fluoride, it helps prevent tooth decay no matter how old you are.
  • Quit smoking. Besides putting you at greater risk for lung and other cancers, smoking increases problems with gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss.
  • Visit Pike & Valega, DDS regularly for a complete dental checkup.

If you have any questions about keeping up with your oral hygiene at home, please give us a call!

Diet Soda vs. Regular Soda: Which is better for teeth?

October 17th, 2017

When most patients ask Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega this question, they're thinking strictly about sugar content — cut out the bacteria-feeding sugar that's present in regular soda by opting for a diet soda and it will be better for your teeth. That seems logical, right? Well, there's a bit more to it than that. Let's take a closer look at how any kind of soda can affect your dental health.

Diet Soda – Why it can also lead to tooth decay

The main culprit in these drinks that leads to decay is the acid content. Diet sodas and other sugar-free drinks are usually highly acidic, which weakens the enamel on your teeth and makes them more susceptible to cavities and dental erosion. The level of phosphoric acid, citric acid, and/or tartaric acid is usually high in sugar-free drinks so it's best to avoid them.

Some patients also enjoy drinking orange juice or other citrus juices. These drinks are high in citric acid and have the same effect on the enamel of your teeth.

So what about regular soda?

We know the acidity of diet sodas and sugar-free drinks contributes to tooth decay, so what about regular soda? Like we alluded to earlier, regular soda is high in sugar — a 12 ounce can contains roughly ten teaspoons of sugar — and sugar feeds the decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. This also includes sports drinks and energy drinks, which are highly acidic and loaded with sugar too. So these drinks are a double-whammy of sugar and acidity your teeth and body simply don't need.

The problems caused by both diet and regular soda is exacerbated when you sip on them throughout the day. If you drink it all in one sitting, you won't be washing sugar and/or acids over your teeth all day long and your saliva will have a chance to neutralize the pH in your mouth.

The best beverages to drink and how to drink them

Drinking beverages that are lower in acid is a good step to take to keep your enamel strong. According to a study conducted by Matthew M. Rodgers and J. Anthony von Fraunhofer at the University of Michigan, your best bets are plain water, black tea or coffee, and if you opt for a soda, root beer. These drinks dissolved the least amount of enamel when measured 14 days after consumption of the beverage.

If you still choose to drink soda, diet soda, sugar-free drinks, or juices here are some other tips to lessen tooth decay:

  • Drink your soda or acidic beverages through a straw to minimize contact with teeth
  • Rinse with water immediately after consumption of the beverage
  • Avoid brushing your teeth between 30 minutes to an hour after drinking the beverage as this has been shown to spread the acids before your saliva can bring your mouth back to a neutral pH
  • Avoid drinks that have acids listed on the ingredients label

Still have questions about soda, sugar, and acid? Give our Poolesville and Rockville MD office a call and we’d be happy to help!

Canker sores, cold sores, and mouth sores: What's the difference?

October 11th, 2017

At Pike & Valega, DDS, we know many people have experienced some form of mouth sores or irritation. Some mouth sores are harmless and go away on their own after a few days, while others are more serious and should not be ignored. Mouth sores occur for many different reasons, but bacterial infections, viruses, or funguses often trigger them. The best way to tell the difference between a canker sore and a cold sore is that canker sores occur inside the mouth while cold sores occur on the outside the mouth.

The most common mouth sores are:

Canker sores: A non-contagious, small, grayish ulcer with a red border, canker sores appear inside the mouth. While outside factors such as stress, fatigue, or allergies may increase the chances of developing a canker sore, most health experts believe they stem from bacteria or a virus that attacks the immune system. Canker sores typically heal within a week or two.

Cold sores: Also called fever blisters, cold sores are contagious groups of fluid-filled blisters that often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or around the chin. Cold sores are the result of the herpes simplex virus, and once infected, the virus remains in the person’s blood stream.

Leukoplakia: A potential warning sign of oral cancer, leukoplakia is a premalignant lesion that appears as a white patch on the inside of the mouth, tongue, or gums. The lesions, which are caused by excessive cell growth, usually afflict those who smoke tobacco. Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega may choose to have the lesion biopsied if the outbreak appears severe.

Oral candidiasis: Also called oral thrush or moniliasis, this condition is caused by the overgrowth of a type of yeast called candida. Common symptoms of oral candidiasis include white spots inside the mouth and on the tongue, redness or discomfort in the mouth area, sore throat,difficulty swallowing, and cracking at the corners of the mouth. It is important to visit Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega if you have oral candidiasis. If left untreated, it may infect your bloodstream, which can be very dangerous. Healthy adults do not usually get thrush, and the condition is most often seen in infants, the elderly, patients undergoing chemotherapy, or people with AIDS or other diseases that are known to weaken the immune system.

Should you have a mouth sore that lasts a week or longer, we encourage you to give us a call and schedule an examination at our Poolesville and Rockville MD office.

Keep It Cheesy for a Long-Lasting Smile

October 10th, 2017

You’ve heard people tell you to say “cheese” when you’re having your picture taken, probably more times than you can count. There is another reason you should be saying “cheese” … or “YES” to eating cheese.

Although Dr. Pike and Dr. Valega and our staff routinely encourage our patients to brush their teeth after eating, the one time you don’t want to do that, at least not immediately, is after eating cheese.

Study Finds Important Benefit From Eating Cheese

CBS News reported on the results of a study that was published in the May/June 2013 issue of General Dentistry, a publication of the Academy of General Dentistry. The study showed that cheese increases dental plaque pH, but in this case, the plaque increase isn’t a bad thing. When you eat cheese, you increase the pH of the plaque on your teeth, and create a protective coating that may lower your risk of getting dental caries -- more commonly known as cavities.

An analysis of the story from the General Dentistry journal, including the details of the study and its participants, was published in Science Daily. The study looked at 68 children between the ages of 12 and 15. A similar study was conducted by British researchers who reported their findings in the British Dental Journal in 1999.

How the Study Worked

For the 2013 study, researchers divided kids into three groups. Participants in group one ate cheddar cheese. Participants in group two drank milk, while participants in group three ate sugar-free yogurt. All participants were told to eat or drink their assigned foods for three minutes, after which they swished water in their mouths.

Researchers tested every participant’s mouth at ten, 20, and 30-minute intervals. They found no changes in the mouths of participants in the milk drinking and sugar-free yogurt eating groups, but every time they tested the pH levels in the mouths of the ones who had eaten cheese, researchers saw the levels quickly increased.

They concluded that cheese has anti-cavity properties. That isn’t the only benefit, however. Another study, in which related findings were reported, appeared in the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice in the summer of 2000. In that study, researchers found that cheese may give teeth a protective coating that helps lessen enamel erosion caused by acidic foods, particularly from sugar-sweetened soft drinks.

So don’t just say cheese for pictures. If you want to have a happy, healthy and long-lasting smile, go for cheese. It’s good for your bones, too!

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