Sunshine Can Save Your Smile | Alhambra Dentist

Girl lying on the grass

Cod liver oil, which contains Vitamin D, was the first product to be endorsed by the Council of Dental Therapeutics of the American Dental Association (ADA) in 1931. The ADA judged by scientific evidence at that time that cod liver oil, with vitamin D as the main ingredient, was beneficial to teeth and gums.

In addition to its dental benefits, vitamin D, also called the “sunshine vitamin”, is essential to general health. Without it, cells could not perform their functions and the brain would not fully develop, according to an article published in the Blaylock Wellness Report. The article further states that despite benefits of the sunshine vitamin, the rising number of malignant melanomas in the United States caused alarms to be raised over overexposure to sun. But, by making people vitamin D deficient, we inadvertently, increased people’s risk of developing all forms of skin cancer, including the malignant melanoma. The major source of vitamin D is from the sun. But, getting enough sunshine to produce our own vitamin D has been strongly discouraged, and, as a result, the average person’s level of vitamin D has plummeted, according to the Blaylock Report.

A recent publication by the Mayo Clinic states that vitamin D plays a role in reducing major medical problems including heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis. The best way to obtain vitamin D is from sunshine. The body synthesizes vitamin D after exposure to sunshine. Casual exposure to sunlight of ten to fifteen minutes twice per week can generate up to 50,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D. For those who live in an area with limited access to sunshine, eating foods fortified with vitamin D, such as milk, eggs, sardines and tuna fish may also provide sufficient amount of this vitamin. Be sure to consult with your physician about whether you should be taking vitamin D, calcium or any other supplement.

Numerous studies indicate that vitamin D and calcium deficiencies result in bone loss and increased inflammation. Inflammation is a major symptom of periodontal (gum) disease and is recognized by many dental scientists that vitamin D and calcium may be a risk factor for this common disease.

The increase of a protein called “proinflammatory cytokine” is associated with a number of infectious diseases, including periodontal disease. It has been demonstrated through studies that vitamin D can suppress cytokine production, and possibly lower the risks associated with this protein.

According to the ADA, vitamin D synthesis is important in promoting healthy gums, but not the entire answer to treating this disease. Periodontal disease occurs in the presence of specific types of bacteria (periodontal pathogens), in the form of plaque, that triggers in the susceptible host (the patient who is genetically vulnerable) an inflammatory process, including the production of cytokines. This inflammatory cellular reaction incites certain white blood cells (e.g., polymorphocytes) to destroy the bone supporting the teeth. As bone is destroyed, deep spaces are formed between the gum and the root. These are called gum pockets. Over time, these pockets deepened and spread, resulting in the eventual loss of teeth.

Treatment consists of the careful removal of plaque, which is made up of millions of colonies of harmful bacteria lodged under the gum. This procedure is called root planing. If the pockets are normalized after root planing, the patient should return for regular recall visits for disinfection of the pockets. Bacteria that cause gum disease are analogous to termites that destroy the foundation of your house. The disease cannot be cured but can only be controlled through regular maintenance care. Surgery, or special non-surgical methods, may be necessary if root planing and good oral hygiene does not return the patient to normal.

To keep your teeth and gums healthy, brush and floss your teeth two or three times daily, see your dentist regularly. You might even try a spoonful or tablet of cod liver oil, along with a little bit of sunshine this summer.

If you would like more information about vitamin D benefits, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Your Tongue and Bad Breath | Alhambra Dentist

In traditional Chinese medicine, some doctors can diagnose an issue just by looking at the patterns and colors on the tongue. Medical doctors and dentists can also tell a lot about your health by looking at your mouth and tongue.

What if you notice your tongue has white spots? It could be tongue plaque. Your tongue naturally cleans itself and renews the cells on the surface to get rid of bacteria, dead cells, and debris. But when someone has tongue plaque, that renewal doesn’t happen, and your tongue gets covered in a white film. This can happen with age, dry mouth, tobacco and alcohol use, and also with fever or illness. You can clean off tongue plaque by scraping your tongue and using mouthwash. There are a few other conditions that can cause white spots on your tongue. If you see separate white spots on your tongue, it could be a sign of a superficial fungal infection, an inflammatory condition, or even early signs of tongue cancer. It would be best if you see your dentist or doctor when you suspect something is wrong.

Another reason for having white coating on your tongue is if you’ve been on antibiotics for a while. Prolonged antibiotic therapy could lead to a yeast infection in your mouth that turns your tongue white. For this reason, doctors will also encourage you take probiotics to replenish the “good” bacteria in your intestines when you are undergoing antibiotic therapy.

A healthy tongue should be pink and covered with small, uniform papillae bumps. When you’re brushing your teeth, it’s a good idea to brush your tongue to get rid of any bacteria that might be lingering on the surface. A tongue scraper also does the same thing and is a handy tool to have. Your dentist or dental hygienist can show you how to do this if you’re not sure.

Another side effect of having plaque on your tongue would be bad breath which has other causes. So, if you are plagued by bad breath, it could be periodontal (gum) disease. In this disease, bacteria induce a chronic inflammatory process which, over time, results in loss of bone around the roots of the teeth. This loss of bone is for the most part symptom-free and painless until the advanced stages, when a white coating on the tongue appears, along with bad breath and loose teeth.

Untreated, periodontal disease is associated with systemic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease. So, if you see white spots, a cream-colored coating or any lesions on your tongue, see your dentist or physician for diagnosis and treatment.

There appears to be more and more medical experiments and studies delving into what about Chinese medicine makes it work, how it works, and why it works. Maybe Chinese medicine has more to contribute to western medical science than what is known in the public sector.

If you would like more information about your tongue, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Why Doesn’t My Insurance Cover This? | Alhambra Dentist

One of the most commonly asked questions is, “Why doesn’t my insurance cover this?” There is no such thing as dental Insurance. The term insurance means protection against loss.

Dental plans do not insure the patient against loss of any kind. That is why dental plans never include the word “insurance” after their name. Dental plans do not fully insure you for the expenses needed to keep you in good dental health for life.

Dental plans are merely a collection of benefits determined through negotiation between the dental plan representatives and employers. These benefits are based on what the employer can afford to pay. Therefore, the higher the premium paid by the employer, the better your benefits will be. These benefits will help defray the cost of treatment covered by the plan.

If a dental procedure is not covered, it means that the premium paid by your employer does not allow for this procedure to be covered. Again, your dental plan does not insure you against loss of dental health. If you allow your dental coverage to determine your dental treatment, you can place your teeth at risk of inadequate treatment, lack of treatment altogether or recurrence of a disease. Your dental plan cannot be held responsible for the loss of your teeth as a result of lack of treatment or under-treatment.

The good news is that most standard procedures needed are likely to be covered at least to a certain extent. The actual amount covered for a particular procedure depends on what your dental plan decides is the “usual, customary and reasonable” (UCR) fee for that procedure. The bad news is that UCR’s vary greatly among dental plan carriers. Sometimes the same carrier has different UCR’s for different policies. Some plans cover very little, while others cover more. Your dentist, however, can generally estimate the amount that would be covered based upon previous experience and can help you negotiate the complicities of dental plans.

Sometimes the amount of benefits covered is lower than what the patient expects; this is due to the fact that the annual maximum of most dental plans is $1000 to $1500. This annual maximum was adopted in the 1960’s and has been the standard for approximately 50 years. Inflation over 50 years has eroded the value of the annual maximum. Nevertheless, this amount of benefits is still substantial and should be properly and intelligently utilized. For example, your dentist may offer you the option of postponing some non-urgent treatment until the next calendar or contract year so that you can take advantage of the next year maximum. No matter what kind of plan you have, your dentist is likely to recommend that you not leave that yearly benefit unused when treatment is necessary.

If you believe a procedure should be covered better than estimated, inform your employer of the problem. Your employer can most effectively correct the problem for you because the employer is paying the monthly premiums and has the option of not renewing the contract at the end of the contract period (generally November). Engaging the help of your employer or your personnel department would probably be the most effective way to address the issue. In the meantime, if you want to proceed with a procedure that is not covered but find it hard to afford it, discuss the problem with the dental office staff. Most offices offer extended payment plans, sponsored by financial institutions that offer no interest or relatively competitive interest rates.

There is nothing more important than a healthy smile. However, keeping your smile white and beautiful will sometimes require a financial commitment that might be temporarily uncomfortable, but remember that a smile is the universal language and “when you give someone a smile, the world smiles back.”

If you would like more information about dental insurance, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Conquer Tooth Decay with Sugar? | Alhambra Dentist

Yes! A new kind of sugar, called xylitol, when incorporated into chewing gum, can not only prevent tooth decay, but may also help “re-mineralize” or heal small cavities that have not penetrated the enamel, according to an article published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA). This article states, “The evidence is strong enough to support the regular use of xylitol-sweetened gum as a way to prevent caries, and it can be promoted as a public-health preventive measure.”

To understand how xylitol can prevent tooth decay it is important to understand how cavities are formed. Sugar does not directly cause cavities. Rather, sugar introduced into the mouth is converted into acid by bacteria (e.g., Streptococcus mutans) in dental plaque. The increased acidity of the plaque causes “demineralization” of the enamel, which is the highly mineralized, hard covering layer of the crown of the tooth. The reason xylitol is effective in preventing cavities is that its chemical properties does not allow microorganisms to convert it into acid. Furthermore, unlike common sugars, xylitol does not decrease the pH (increase acidity) in dental plaque that would result in more acid formation. In fact, chewing xylitol gum has been shown in some studies to lower plaque formation. Other studies seem to indicate that regular use of xylitol gum can “re-mineralize” enamel undergoing the initial stages of chemical breakdown.

Xylitol tastes almost the same as sorbitol-sweetened gum (sugar-free gum). Xylitol, according to the JADA article, is more beneficial “in terms of reducing caries risk than does sorbitol-sweetened gum.” Sorbitol-sweetened gum is a “low cariogenic sweetener” rather than a “non-cariogenic sweetener”, such as xylitol.

Xylitol contains only 2 grams of sugar in two sticks of gum. Substituting some xylitol products in the diet can significantly reduce caloric intake. Consider the fact that the average consumption of all sugar is 141.5 pounds per capita in the U.S. in 2003. Much of the sugar intake has come in the form of sodas and juices, both of which have replaced milk and formula in the diets of infants and young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics has strongly opposed the practice of manufacturers of sodas and juices in contracting with school districts for the sole right to stock vending machines in the schools, known as “pouring rights.”

Another interesting discovery is that the regular use of xylitol may interrupt the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria from mother to child, according to a study from Finland. It was reported that there was a “significant reduction in the colonization of mutans streptococci” in the saliva of the infants in this study which involved 195 mother-infant pairs. The cavity rate of the children in the xylitol group was 70% lower than the other groups.

It is recommended by some dental experts that it is beneficial to have a regimen of chewing xylitol-sweetened gum three to five times a day for minimum of five minutes to inhibit plaque accumulation and chemical breakdown of enamel. In combination with regular home care and visits to the dentist, xylitol can be a beneficial adjunct to maintaining your smile for a lifetime. Check with your dentist as to whether xylitol may be right for you.

If you would like more information about cavity prevention, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.