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Dangers of Alcohol and Oral Health

August 12th, 2020

We often have patients who ask, “Can drinking alcohol affect my oral health?” There are, in fact, a few reasons why that martini may not be good for your pearly whites.

In addition to creating an overly acidic environment in your mouth, alcohol severely dehydrates oral tissues because of its desiccant and diuretic properties. Because alcohol saps oral tissues of their moisture so readily, saliva glands can't keep enough saliva in the mouth to prevent dry mouth. In addition, saliva contains antibacterial properties that inhibits growth of anaerobic bacteria, a destructive type of oral bacterial responsible for tooth decay, gingivitis, chronic bad breath, and periodontitis.

What are anaerobic bacteria?

When there is a lack of saliva flow in the mouth and the mouth cannot naturally cleanse itself of oral debris (food particles, dead skin cell, mucous), conditions develop that promote activity of anaerobic bacteria, or bacteria that thrive in dry, airless places. These anaerobes also flourish when an unending supply of proteins (food debris) are available to consume, creating rapidly multiplying layers of plaque that stick to teeth and demineralizes tooth enamel unless removed by brushing and professional dental cleanings.

Oral Cancer and Alcohol

Acetaldehyde is a chemical compound leftover after the liver has metabolized alcohol. Capable of causing genetic mutations, acetaldehyde is also a known carcinogen that contributes to the ill feelings of hangovers. Although most metabolism of alcohol is done in the liver, evidence shows that metabolism also occurs outside the liver and that enzymes in the mouth could encourage accumulation of acetaldehyde in oral tissues.

When combined with poor oral health, smoking, and other detrimental lifestyle factors, alcohol may be considered a primary contributory factor in the development of oral cancer.

Even if you don't drink or drink only occasionally, remaining aware of symptoms that may indicate oral cancer will improve your chances of recovering successfully when you start treatment in the early stages of oral cancer. Signs include red or while speckled patches in the mouth, unexplained bleeding, lumps/swellings, chronic ear or throat pain, and areas of numbness in the mouth or on the face.

If you have any questions about alcohol and its connection to oral health, don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Werner at your next visit to our Los Gatos, CA office.

Periodontics and Pregnancy

August 5th, 2020

Periodontal health — which refers to the condition of the structures that support your teeth — is an important part of your oral and overall health. However, periodontal health becomes even more important when you're pregnant. Bad oral health can have detrimental effects on the health of your unborn child and can lead to low-birth weight babies and giving birth to a pre-term baby, according to reports by the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP), and several research studies.

Periodontal disease (gum disease) is a set of chronic, bacteria-induced, inflammatory diseases that attack the gum tissue and in more severe cases, the bones supporting the teeth. Early signs of periodontal disease usually include tenderness, swelling, and redness. Symptoms can also include bleeding gums when flossing or brushing, receding gums, loose teeth, and bad breath. These signs shouldn't be ignored, especially if you're pregnant.

Prevention is the best tool you have to fight periodontal disease. Here are some steps you can take to keep your gums in tiptop shape:

  • Brush your teeth properly twice a day – angle your toothbrush at the gum line to help disrupt the bacterial growth that eventually leads to periodontal disease, and make sure you don't brush too hard.
  • Floss daily and clean behind the back molars on the top and bottom of your mouth.
  • Use antiseptic mouthwash to rid your mouth of the bacteria that can cause gum disease.
  • Get regular checkups at our Los Gatos, CA office to ensure you have no signs of periodontal disease and that your oral hygiene habits are effective.

Dr. Werner and our team urge women to care for their periodontal health during pregnancy to avoid complications. If you have any questions regarding periodontal health and how it affects you and your baby's overall health, please contact our Los Gatos, CA office for more information.

Detergent Foods: Clean your teeth while you eat!

July 29th, 2020

Did you know that there are certain foods you can eat which help to clean your teeth? We call them "detergent foods." In dentistry we look at the impact of food in three ways: the kind of food, how often it is eaten, and when it is eaten. Detergent foods should be the last piece of food you consume during a meal for best results. Think of them as the closest you can get to brushing your teeth.

A healthy diet is important for oral health as well as overall health, but here are some particular foods that can help clean your teeth and mouth:

  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Celery sticks
  • Popcorn
  • Cucumbers
  • Pears
  • Lettuce
  • Cheese

As you can see, detergent foods are usually foods that are firm and crisp. They act like scrubbers on and around your teeth and gums and bring your mouth's pH back to 7.0, which is optimal.

Which foods are the worst for your teeth?

Cookies, cakes, breads, chips, crackers, soft drinks, dried fruit, and candies (what many people’s diets are full of) provide carbohydrates (sugar) to the bacteria in your mouth causing an acidic environment and increasing the chance of cavities and decay. These foods are sticky and don't rinse easily from your mouth. Avoid letting these foods sit on your teeth after eating them.

It also depends on how often you consume these foods throughout the day. For example, if you drink soft drinks, it's best to have it all in one sitting instead of sipping it all throughout the day. Doing so causes the perfect environment in your mouth for bacteria to flourish and your saliva never gets the chance to neutralize its pH.

This is where detergent foods can come into play. When you're about to finish your meal, have an apple, celery stick, or carrot. It will act like a "natural toothbrush." Also, try to make these detergent foods the basis for snacks you have throughout the day.

Always remember, these foods are not a replacement for brushing and flossing. You still need good dental hygiene regardless of what you're eating! For more tips and tricks for ideal oral health, ask Dr. Werner the next time you visit our Los Gatos, CA office!

How to Handle a Dental Emergency

July 22nd, 2020

Whether it’s a broken tooth or injured gums, a dental emergency can interfere with eating, speaking, or other day-to-day activities. According to the American Dental Association , you can sometimes prevent dental emergencies like these by avoiding the use of your teeth as tools or by giving up hard foods and candies.

Even if you take excellent care of your mouth, however, unexpected dental problems can still arise. Our team at Erich M. Werner, D.D.S. is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assess and resolve your individual situation. When an emergency arises, you should immediately make an appointment with our office so we can put you at ease, give you the best possible care, and help you return quickly to your regular routine.

Damaged Teeth

For tooth damage in particular, don’t hesitate to call and schedule an emergency dental appointment. You should come in as soon as possible. However, if you have some time before your appointment there are a few things you can do to avoid further injury. If you break your tooth, clean the area well by rinsing it with warm water. To ease any discomfort, put a cold compress against your skin near the area with the affected tooth.

A dislodged tooth should be handled carefully in order to keep it in the best possible condition. Gently rinse off the tooth without scrubbing it and try to place it back into the socket of your gums. If it won’t stay in your mouth, put the tooth in a container of milk and bring it along to your dental appointment.

Injured Soft Tissues

For other problems, such as bleeding gums or an injured tongue, cheek, or lip, the Cleveland Clinic recommends gently rinsing your mouth with salt water and applying pressure to the site with a moist strip of gauze or a tea bag. If you’re also experiencing some discomfort, you can put a cold compress on your cheek near the area of the bleeding. If the bleeding continues, don’t hesitate to contact our office so you can receive further help.

A dental emergency may catch you off guard, but Dr. Werner can provide fast, pain-free treatment. Follow the advice above and set up an appointment with us as soon as possible so you can put your teeth and mouth on the road to recovery.