Toothache Remedies on the Internet

Just look up “toothache remedy” on the web and you will find that there are about 1,040,000 entries.  Everyone has a remedy – apparently people will try anything to avoid visiting the dentist.  One person recommends wrapping small pieces of bread around the painful tooth or packing the tooth with pieces of bread dipped in olive or sesame oil.  Another entry recommends biting down on a dill pickle, especially one with garlic or mustard oil which act as pain killers.  Ginger root is another remedy: remove the skin and bite down on the ginger with the offending tooth. Or soak cotton with vinegar and bite down – but the author warns readers to be careful as the acid in the vinegar will erode the enamel.  Cucumber, dried peppermint, oats, and – strangest of all – Oscar Meyer bologna are more remedies.

Warning: don’t self-medicate; the internet does not have a dental degree.   The only remedy if you want to save your teeth is to see the dentist.

I received this email from a patient whose daughter moved out of state: “Katie’s dentist recommended Sensodyne toothpaste not because of her teeth being sensitive to cold or various tastes, but because she’s pregnant and he told her it adds to the protective layer on her teeth. Is that true?  More so than any fluoride toothpaste? And which ingredient would be the active one?”

I answered that I had never heard this about Sensodyne.  Check out their website: http://us.sensodyne.com/.  They only claim protection against sensitivity.  Any other use is off-label and I can’t find any reference to Sensodyne adding to the protective layer on the teeth.  The claim is certainly not “evidence based” which is the current buzz word.  And why ingest more chemicals than necessary?  I always recommend natural toothpastes.  Katie should watch out for gingivitis – common during pregnancy.  Healthy Gums from the Natural Dentist is a good product to heal the gums and is available in health food stores and on the web.

I routinely examine my patients for signs of oral cancer.  In 2010 there were about 36,000 new cases of oral and pharyngeal cancer (OPC) in the U.S. and over 7,000 deaths.  Prevention includes early detection of premalignant changes in the oral mucosa.

But you can also assist in prevention.  An article in the February, 2011 Journal of the American Dental Association reported on “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”  A diet high in fruits and vegetables is protective against OPC.  Vitamin C and E have antioxidant properties and may prevent DNA damage because they reduce exposure to the free radicals of oxygen.    Fruits and vegetables also contain phytonutrients which may act synergistically to prevent OPC and other cancers.  In contrast, nitrites in processed meats form nitrosamines which are carcinogenic and increase the risk of developing cancer.  The protective dietary factors of antioxidant vitamins, carotenoids, lycopene and fiber occur in plant foods: whole grains, nuts, legume, vegetables and fruits.  A plant food diet also minimizes pathogenic dietary factors including saturated fat and animal protein and nitrates.  Salted meat, processed meat and animal fat all increase the risk of oral cancer.  Dietary supplements are not a substitute for a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

For more information about diet and prevention of oral cancer see: http://jada.ada.org/cgi/content/short/142/2/166

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

Calling all patients ages 12 and under!  Enter the “Draw a Picture of your Dentist” Contest!  You could win a prize which will be awarded at the Suffolk County Dental Society general membership meeting on March 23.  The SCDS runs this contest every year and it is always lots of fun.  All you have to do is draw the picture and we will submit it for you.  I submit patient drawings every year and this year I hope to have a winner!

During the first 17 days that they were trapped underground, the 33 Chilean miners were unable to brush their teeth.  It wasn’t until a five-inch diameter connecting hole was drilled into their deep underground chamber that they had access to toothbrushes and other supplies.  Several of the men thus developed gum disease. The situation is a dramatic illustration of the importance of proper dental health care and of how quickly dental problems can develop.  The men received medical evaluations when they were rescued and gum disease was one of the health problems that was evident.  The men also suffered from poor nutrition and stress-related trauma.  They all received a full dental check-up and periodontal scaling to remove the plaque and calculus buildup.  It is expected that all of the miners will have a full medical recovery but their ordeal is a reminder of how quickly an individual can develop gum disease and the importance of regular dental care.

I just read about Dr Preston Maring, a physician who is so convinced that physicians need to know about healthy foods that he stated a farmers’ market outside of the Kaiser Permanente medical center in Oakland, California.  He is absolutely on target in his belief that food is the center of health and says, “doctors must make all aspects of it – growing, buying, cooking, eating – a mainstay of their medical educations, their personal lives and their practices.”   He likes to challenge his medical colleagues on their culinary knife skills: do they know how to chop vegetables – mince garlic?

Dr. Maring and his son, a medical student, are both accomplished chefs and are teaching cooking skills to other medical students.  Their project is called CHEF: Cook Healthy, Eat Fresh.  How nice if this approach could be incorporated into the dental curriculum.  While I was reading about Dr. Maring’s farmers’ market, I was at a lecture learning about the latest concepts in dental implants.  The food selection for this all-day dental program was horrendous – picture 100 dentists from all over the east coast eating ice cream with all the toppings after a high-fat, low fiber luncheon.  No wonder most of the participants nodded off for the afternoon session.  I checked out the American Dental Association (ADA) website – not much to say about cooking healthy foods to avoid tooth decay and periodontal disease.

Like Dr. Maring, my personal healthy food habits also begin with growing, buying and cooking.  At this point I only grow organic herbs but I buy organic fruits and vegetables from a local farm and I cook fresh foods.  Eating healthy does not mean knowing how to read labels – it means knowing how to cook from fresh, local ingredients.  If you don’t know how to cook, take a cooking course or start watching the food network.  You’ll be surprised how easy it is – and how delicious.  You’ll feel better and be healthier too.

I recently came across an excellent article on the Mayo Clinic website at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dental/DE00001.  The article “Oral Health: A window to your overall health,” discusses the connection between oral health and overall health.  It explains that your mouth may harbor the first signs of disease and that diseases of the mouth, such as gum disease, can cause problems in other parts of the body.
Your mouth is loaded with bacteria which can be kept under control with brushing, flossing and regular dental visits. Saliva also defends against bacteria because it contains enzymes that destroy bacteria. But if the bacteria are not kept in control, a gum infection, or periodontitis, can result.  Gum disease may provide bacteria with a means to enter your bloodstream. Dental treatment might also be a means whereby bacteria can enter the bloodstream.
•     Research has shown that heart disease, stroke and clogged arteries may be linked to oral health and periodontal disease.
•    Gum disease has also been linked to premature births.
•    Diabetes increases your risk of gum disease and oral infections. And poor oral health can make your diabetes more difficult to control.  Oral infections can cause your blood sugar to rise, requiring more insulin for its control.
•    People who have HIV/AIDS often exhibit oral manifestations, including ulcers, dry mouth and painful fungal, viral or bacterial lesions. One of the first signs of AIDS may be severe gum infection.
•    The first stages of osteoporosis, or bone loss, may manifest in loss of supporting bone of the teeth, resulting in loose teeth.
•    Other conditions that may first exhibit in your mouth include Sjogren’s syndrome, some cancers, eating disorders, sexually transmitted diseases and substance abuse.

The relationship between your oral health and your overall health provides another good reason to take care of your teeth and gums.  An investment in your oral health is an investment in your overall health!

The singer Patti Smith was the recent commencement speaker at the Pratt Institute in New York.  She took that opportunity to speak of dental care.  No kidding!
Here is the YouTube link: http://www.theawl.com/2010/05/the-patti-smith-pratt-commencement-speech.
Here is her quote: “My greatest urge is to speak to you of dental care.  My generation had a rough go dentally.  Our dentists were the Army dentists who came back from World War II and believed that the dental office was a battleground.  You have a better chance at dental health.  And I say this because you want at night to be pacing the floor because your fuse is burning inside of you, because you want to do your work, because you want to finish that canvas, because you want to help your fellow man.  You don’t want to be pacing because you need a damn root canal.  So, floss.  Use salt and baking soda.  Take care of your damn teeth.”
Great words of wisdom! – but the audience laughed.  She was spoofing the commencement speech.  But who gets the last laugh?

Today the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce held its first Health & Wellness Expo at the Village Center. Over 50 exhibitors were on hand to answer questions, distribute information, provide screenings and education seminars. I also participated and answered questions about teeth whitening, missing teeth, implants, crowns and porcelain veneers.  It was wonderful to meet so many new people and see some old friends. I also had the opportunity to hear Dr. Raja Jaber speak on “Lifestyle Medicine,” an approach for patients to develop wellness skills such as the adoption of wholesome nutrition, better sleep habits, appropriate exercise, stress reduction and elimination of harmful addictions. The purpose of the Expo was to “promote good health” – and I hope good oral health too! For more on dentistry and lifestyle, see my webpage on holistic dentistry.

“Talking Teeth” is the name of a bi-weekly radio program on 91.5 AM hosted by my good friend and colleague (and mentor) Dr. Dean Vafiadis. On this program Dr. Dean discusses issues of dental health. Tonight’s topic was implants; two weeks ago it was periodontal disease; the next topic will be “teeth in an hour.” Dr. Dean is an excellent speaker – always informative and entertaining. He calls the program “Talking Teeth” because he says that teeth talk to him. That may sound funny to the public, but I know what he means. Teeth do talk to me too! They tell me a lot about your habits and your life style. I can tell if a tooth is happy or unhappy or if it needs attention. So check out Dr. Dean’s radio program if you want to learn more about what the best dentistry can do for you.