The Mighty Lettuce Weighs in on Gum Disease

The Mighty Lettuce Weighs in on Gum Disease

Many of the patients at our Lower Manhattan cosmetic dental practice adhere to a low carb diet, eschewing bread and other carby foods to lose or maintain weight, and/or for other health benefits. What’s news is that German researchers at University of Freiburg have linked a restricted carbohydrate diet with an improvement in gum disease!

The 4-week research study involved 15 subjects: 10 who served as the experimental group and 5 as the control group. While the control group members ate their usual foods, the experimental group’s menu centered on a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins C & D, and low in carbohydrates. Gum evaluations were performed on each patient before the study began to create a baseline for each participant, and measurements were taken at the end of each week throughout the study.

Although the levels of plaque in the teeth of all participants remained constant regardless of diet, there was a significant drop (50%) in inflammatory parameters in the experimental group compared with the control group. This shows that a diet low in refined carbohydrates and rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and vitamins C & D can greatly reduce gum inflammation.

(To see the complete study, click this link)

To your health & beauty,
Jeffrey Shapiro, DDS, PC and Glenn Chiarello, DDS
NYC Cosmetic Dentists

New Treatment for Gingivitis?

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 2.16.48 PMA recent Japanese study confirms that supplementation with DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) can improve the outcome for individuals with gum disease. According to estimates, gingivitis is the 2nd most common disease worldwide. Estimates are that 30-50% of American men and women have some form of periodontal disease, a serious oral infection that destroys the soft tissue and bone that sustain the teeth. The discovery that supplementing ones diet with omega-3 fatty acids could reduce dental disease holds remarkable promise!

The anti-bacterial properties of omega-3 fatty acids against oral pathogens were previously reported in a research project at the University of Kentucky’s College of Dentistry. According to that study, all three omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA and ALA) limited the growth of Streptococcus mutans, Porphyromonas gingivalis and Candida Albicans, even at low doses. Japanese researchers took the next step to buy involving 46 older men and women in a longitudinal study to determine if there were benefits to dental health if the patients were given omega-3. Participants were given either 2000 mg of DHA or a placebo each day of the study, as well as 81 mg per day of aspirin, a known anti-inflammatory agent. In patients that received DHA, both pocket depth and blood tests measuring inflammation decreased; this was not the case in those who were given the placebo, even though both groups were given aspirin. Further, the researchers discovered that individuals with low levels of DHA had approximately 1.5 times the rate of gum disease than individuals with the highest average DHA levels.

What does this mean to you? It means that, in addition to a commitment to twice-a-day brushing and flossing and twice-yearly visits to our office, taking an omega-3 supplement may very well be in your best interest. Here is a list of foods highest in omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Flaxseed oil and flaxseeds
  • Fish, particularly halibut, herring, mackerel, oysters, salmon, sardines & shrimp
  • Nuts, particularly walnuts
  • Vegetables such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach and watercress
  • Soybeans, including tofu

If you aren’t fond of any of the foods above or find that you can’t eat sufficient quantities to achieve the recommended 2000 mg of omega-3 per day, you can, of course, supplement your diet with omega-3 in liquid or capsule form, many of which are formulated to avoid any “fishy” taste that might keep you from making this a regular health habit.

To your health & beauty,
Jeffrey Shapiro, DDS, PC and Glenn Chiarello, DDS
NYC Cosmetic Dentists

Hidden Sugars and Your Teeth

We’ve been told since childhood that sugar causes cavities. Unfortunately, there are nearly 60 compounds used in foods, beverages, and chewing gums that aren’t clearly identified as “sugar.” These compounds have all the drawbacks of sugar but, because of their names, you may consume them in far greater quantities that you think, simply because the name of that sugary ingredient isn’t clearly defined in your mind as a sugar substance.

How Sugar Damages Teeth

We’ve all heard the saying, “sugar rots your teeth.” Truth be told, it’s not the sugar itself that causesScreen Shot 2015-06-02 at 10.41.09 AM cavities. Cavities form when oral bacteria digest the carbohydrate fragments left on teeth after you eat or drink. While these fragments may be from candy, cookies or other sweet treats, they are also left by vegetables, fruits and whole grains, which are healthy foods. Unfortunately, the bacteria don’t know the difference! They interact with these carbohydrate fragments to create an acid. The acid combines with your saliva to create plaque. It’s the plaque that leads to tooth decay. Every time you eat or drink carbohydrates, plaque begins to form. What stops plaque build-up is frequent brushing and flossing. If not removed, the plaque begins to erode the hard outer enamel of the tooth, creating tiny holes. This is the first sign of a cavity.

Over time, those tiny holes will eat through the other layers of your teeth, including the dentin (the soft layer of tooth beneath the enamel), all the way to the pulp, which is the location of your teeth’s nerves and blood vessels. Left untreated, damage can extend into the bone supporting the tooth, causing abscesses, severe discomfort, and sensitivity that leads to tooth loss.

The above details may lead you to wonder if you might as well eat that donut instead of an apple, since both contain carbohydrates, but that would be inaccurate. Fruits and vegetables are more easily washed away with your saliva than are manufactured sweets such as candies or breath mints, for example, which become stuck in the tiny grooves of the teeth

Furthermore, the way you consume carbohydrates also affects the risk for dental damage. Nursing a can of soda for several hours causes more damage to teeth than drinking it immediately, as the teeth are washed over and over with the acidic soda. It takes about 30 minutes after eating or drinking carbohydrates for acid to begin forming. Therefore, every time you take a sip or eat a chip, you’re “resetting the clock” on bacteria formation.

It Pays To Be Aware

Sugars come in many forms. If you want to become a more aware consumer, take a look at this list of 56 compounds that are, essentially, sugar. Watch for them when making choices between products at the market and do your best to purchase items without these ingredients.

  • Agave nectar
  • Barbados sugar
  • Barley malt
  • Beet sugar
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Buttered syrup
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Castor sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Date sugar
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dextran
  • Dextrose
  • Diastatic malt
  • Diatase
  • Ethyl maltol
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Florida crystals
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Galactose
  • lucose
  • Glucose solids
  • Golden sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Grape sugar
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado sugar
  • Organic raw sugar
  • Panocha
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Yellow sugar

To your dental health & beauty,
Jeffrey Shapiro, DDS, PC and Glenn Chiarello, DDS
NYC Cosmetic Dentists


Gum Disease & Heart Disease: The Connection

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 1.53.36 PMHaving good dental habits such as regular brushing & flossing, seeing your dentist every six months,and eschewing simple carbohydrates and acids that damage teeth will not just maintain a beautiful smile–it might just extend your life! Several studies have proven a connection between heart disease, the #1 cause of death in the US, and gum disease (periodontal disease).

In a recent study at the University of Florida, mice were infected with four specific bacteria that cause gum disease to see if there might be a correlation between gum disease and cardiovascular disease. There was. After the bacteria were detected in the gums of the mice, researchers detected it within the heart and aorta. An increase in other risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and inflammation levels, were also detected.

That study is part of a larger study about the effects of gum disease on overall health. According to Kesavalu Lakshmyya in the University of Florida’s Department of Periodontology in the College of Dentistry, the goal is to increase awareness among physicians about links between oral bacteria and other physical ailments. “In Western medicine there is a disconnect between oral health and general health… Dentistry is a separate field of study from Medicine. The mouth is the gateway to the body and our data provides one more piece of a growing body of research that points to direct connections between oral health and systemic health,” says Kesavalu.

The next time you brush and floss, remember that it’s not just your smile you’re protecting!

To your health and beauty,
Jeffrey Shapiro, DDS, PC and Glenn Chiarello, DDS
NYC Cosmetic Dentists


Got Gingivitis?

Gingivitis photoAbout 50% of Americans have gum disease. Gingivitis, inflammation of the gums, is also called periodontal disease.  What causes it, what are the symptoms, why is it a problem, and how can you eliminate it?

What Causes Gingivitis
Gingivitis is caused by dental plaque, which is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth. This invisible bacterial coating on the teeth happens when the starches and sugars in our food intersect with the bacteria normally present in the mouth. The bottom line? Gingivitis is a result of poor dental hygiene: either you aren’t brushing often enough, aren’t brushing properly or you aren’t flossing.

Symptoms of Gingivitis
If your gums are red (rather than pink), if they are inflamed, swollen or bleed when you brush and/or floss, you have gingivitis.

Why is Gingivitis a Problem?
If the plaque (and eventual tartar) are not removed from the teeth through regular brushing, flossing and descaling, the gums gradually swell and bleed. Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, which is a serious gum infection. In periodontitis, the soft tissues and bone that support your teeth begin to weaken, leading to bone loss and, ultimately, tooth loss. Periodontitis also increases your risk for stroke, heart attack and other health problems.

How Can You Eliminate Gingivitis?
The best way to eliminate gingivitis is to avoid it, which is fairly easy to do if you brush your teeth after each meal and floss at least once a day. Although plaque forms within 24 hours, it’s initially easy to remove. Unfortunately, when it isn’t removed, it becomes a hard calculus called tartar at the gumline. The tartar makes it harder to remove plaque and enables the bacteria to grow like crazy. That’s why flossing, in particular, is so important. You must get between the teeth and down near the gums to remove the plaque at least once a day.

Once the plaque becomes tartar, the only way to remove it is to visit the dentist for scaling. Using a pointed curved dental instrument, the dental hygienist literally digs at the tartar to scrape it off the teeth. Although not that uncomfortable, it’s often embarrassing to our patients, and can be irritating to the surrounding gums. If the gums are inflamed, tartar scraping can cause mild bleeding.

The best solution to gingivitis is to avoid it in the first place. Regular, correct brushing and daily flossing goes a long way to avoid both cavities, gingivitis and—a small point, but important nonetheless—bad breath. If you haven’t been in to see your dentist lately, now’s the time to make that appointment. Yes, we know many people hate going to the dentist, but honestly, if you get in the habit of performing regular brushing and flossing, you won’t mind coming in to see us! In fact, you’ll be happy to come in and find that your teeth are in tip-top shape. If that’s not your current situation, there’s no time like the present to get your teeth cleaned, descaled and start on a new regimen of brushing and flossing!

To your health,
Dr. Jeffrey Shapiro
Manhattan Cosmetic Dentist