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A Bite Out of History: Chewing Gum

March 1st, 2019

A Bite Out Of History: Chewing Gum

Need help whitening your teeth? Want to quit smoking? Trying to lose weight? There's a chewing gum for all of that and more. New types of chewing gum are introduced all the time, but did you ever wonder how it managed to gain such a grip on consumers? Believe it or not, people have had a love affair with gum for thousands of years. From humble beginnings to hundreds of varieties, here's a look at how chewing gum rose to become the powerhouse product it is today.

How It Originated

Long before William Wrigley Jr. made a name for chewing gum, ancient civilizations were tapping into trees and other sources of resin and chewing on soft, rubbery substances both for enjoyment and medicinal purposes. Evidence indicates prehistoric Europeans would chew on birch bark tar quite possibly to help relieve toothaches, while Aztecs and Mayans would turn to gum from the chicle tree to appease their thirst or hunger. In North America, Native Americans favored spruce tree resin, and it became commercialized and sold in sticks by a colonist named John Bacon Curtis in 1848.

Eventually, scientist Thomas Adams succeeded in enhancing chicle with flavor, and his work would set off various trials to improve the ability to retain flavor – with peppermint found to be particularly effective. Mr. Adams helped bring attention to chewing gum by introducing it to vending machines and selling it in the subways of New York in 1888, but chewing gum really took off when a soap industrialist named William Wrigley Jr. promoted it as an add-on to his products. From "Juicy Fruit" to "Doublemint" gum, Wrigley created one of the most successful chewing gum companies that ever existed, and many of his products remain popular today.

Gum Gets a Modern Makeover

After the turn of the century, chewing gum innovations accelerated due to deeper research and newfound discoveries. Bubble gum and other sweet flavors became a mainstay, and production further proliferated in the 1930's and 1940's, when synthetic rubbers made mass production easier than ever. Perhaps one of the biggest advancements came in the 1950's, when sugarless chewing gum was first created by a dentist, Dr. Petrulis, and sold to William Wrigley Jr. The nation was becoming more health-conscious, and chewing gum products followed suit.

Today, chewing gum comes in countless varieties, and has grown even more popular due to its ability to:

  • Freshen breath: almost all types of gum come flavored to help mask odors
  • Keep teeth white: both chewing and active ingredients can fight tooth staining
  • Fight plaque: sugar free, xylitol-based gum inhibits the growth of oral bacteria
  • Aid in weight loss: many turn to gum as a low calorie treat instead of snacking
  • Help quit smoking: nicotine gum is an effective substitute for cigarettes
  • Supplement your diet: certain gums are fortified with vitamins and minerals

Several sugarless brands also come with a seal of approval from the American Dental Association, and are recommended by dentists to help fight tooth decay.

Choosing the Right Gum

Chewing gum is often purchased on impulse, but putting a little thought into the type of gum you choose can make a big difference to your oral health. Read the labels closely to ensure you have selected a sugarless variety that won't harm your teeth, and then narrow down the field based on additional preferences – from flavor to active ingredients and beyond. If you need help in choosing the right gum, or are unsure about the effectiveness of a particular brand you have chosen, simply call your dentist for guidance. Just like most things, chewing gum should be done in moderation chewing gum too frequently may lead to jaw muscle fatigue or more serious issues such as Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD, TMJ).

Sources:

Chewing Gum. (n.d.) Retrieved July 28, 2015, from http://www.madehow.com/Volume-1/Chewing-Gum.html

History of Chewing Gum. (n.d.) Retrieved July 17, 2015, from http://www.chewinggumfacts.com/chewing-gum-history/history-of-chewing-gum/

Nix, Elizabeth. (2015, February 13). Chew on This: The History of Gum. Retrieved July 21, 2015, from http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/chew-on-this-the-history-of-gum

 

The Story on Soda

February 24th, 2019

The Story on Soda:
Your Soft Drink Questions Answered

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the reality is that no matter how refreshing that sweet, fizzy soda (or "pop") tastes, there's a chance it could be doing some damage to your teeth. But with so many products on the market, are they all really that bad for you?

Answers to some of your most pressing soft drink questions are about to be answered. Get to the bottom of various soda claims, and find out if there's a workaround that lets you keep your favorite carbonated beverages on tap without traumatizing your teeth.

  1. Is it better to choose clear-colored sodas over darker-colored ones?

Neither option is a healthy choice for your teeth, but upon regular consumption, caramel-hued soft drinks have been known to stain teeth more quickly. Cosmetic differences aside, the extremely high sugar content of any soda, regardless of color, causes lasting damage to tooth enamel, resulting in decay, cavities and/or tooth loss in extreme situations.

  1. Do diet sodas get a pass since they're sugar-free?

The appeal of diet sodas is understandable, especially when the packaging comes with alluring labels of "sugar free" or "calorie free". But the fact of the matter is, even with sugar substitutes, diet soda is still extremely acidic. This means diet soda will still have the same corrosive effect on the enamel, and should be avoided to prevent tooth damage.

  1. Is corn syrup a more harmful soft drink sweetener than cane sugar?

Similar to the misconception about diet sodas, the threat of tooth decay, cavities and other oral health problems isn't based on the type of sweetener used. No matter the source of sugar, enamel erosion will happen with regular consumption of any sweetened soft drink.

  1. If I drink soda through a straw, will this protect my teeth?

Using a straw can limit contact of sugar and acid with the surface of your teeth, but only when positioned correctly. Ideally, the opening of the straw should be directed towards the back of the mouth, but the likelihood for accidental contact is still high if you become distracted or inadvertently swish the liquid in your mouth. Ultimately, the best way to prevent tooth decay due to soft drinks is to avoid drinking them altogether.

  1. What are teeth-friendly alternatives to soda?

If you find carbonated beverages especially refreshing, switch to a seltzer. You'll get the same fizz without the threat of tooth decay. For a flavorful spin, dress up seltzer or plain water with cut up fruit (instead of turning to juice, which can erode tooth enamel due to its fructose content). Milk is also another good choice due to the enamel-fortifying calcium it contains; however, it does contain natural sugar, lactose — so never have a glass before bed without brushing your teeth.

  1. What can I do to combat enamel erosion if I can't quit drinking soda?

For those unable to put aside their love of soft drinks, take these steps to minimize tooth decay and other soda-related oral problems:

  • Rinse your mouth and brush your teeth afterwards to clear away sugar and acid
  • Use fluoride-rich toothpaste and mouthwash to help strengthen tooth enamel
  • See your dentist regularly to get professional help in preventing tooth damage

Speak To Your Dentist

New drinks are always hitting the shelves, but many may not live up to their health claims. Before making something your beverage of choice, get your dentist's perspective to understand how it can impact the health of your teeth.

Sources:

Soda or Pop? It's Teeth Trouble by Any Name. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 3015 from http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-Basics/Oral-Hygiene/Oral-Hygiene-Basics/article/Soda-or-Pop-Its-Teeth-Trouble-by-Any-Name.cvsp

Melnick, M & Klein, S. (2013, March 13). Soda Myths: The Truth About Sugary Drinks, From Sodas To Sports Drinks. Retrieved May 25, 2015 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/13/soda-myths-facts-sugary-drinks_n_2863045.html

 

Adult Dental Anxiety

February 17th, 2019

Adult Dental Anxiety: Tips and Techniques to Tackle It for Good

Wouldn't it be great if the promise of a sticker or balloon could get everyone to see the dentist? Most adults know that the real reward–a healthy smile–is much greater, yet many still go with their dental needs unmet, due to "dentalphobia" or anxiety. Thankfully, increased awareness of the problem is transforming dental care for the better, and shedding light on effective ways to tackle your fears for good. Find out which coping techniques can help you feel more comfortable in the dentist's chair.

How To Combat Common Triggers

If you fear needles (or pain in general)...
Numbing alternatives may be the answer. While topical anesthesia usually takes the "pinch" out of a needle, new developments such as electronic anesthesia and other forms of electrotherapy can be as effective as drugs, and don't require a needle at all. Electrodes are placed on the cheeks, and currents are transmitted to block out the pain. Many dentists have also switched to laser drills, which have a lower risk for pain than their mechanical predecessors. Should you still feel nervous about these options, however, you can always choose to be sedated, and "sleep" through the experience.

If you fear the loss of control...
Play a more active role from the very beginning. Have your dentist walk you through your treatment plan and lay out all your options. More involvement in the decision-making process may calm your nerves and help you feel prepared. Many dentists are also happy to over-communicate if that proves reassuring: simply ask him or her to talk through each step of the procedure as it is under way, and agree to a special signal that indicates pain or the need to stop.

If you fear being scolded or embarrassed...
Find a dentist whose personality and approach are most compatible with yours, and let him or her know about your dental health and history even before your first visit. Oral care makes up a big part of your personal hygiene, so it's understandable to feel anxious about inviting someone into your "personal space" (your mouth). Getting things out in the open, however, can help ease fears about being judged or reprimanded, and make you more relaxed about getting the care you need. Believe it or not, no matter how bad you think your oral health is, chances are your dentist has seen worse.

Preparation Is Key

Keeping an open line of communication with your dentist can go a long way in dealing with your fears, but a little self-preparation can also be empowering. Here are a few tried-and-true ways to help you stay calm from start to finish:

  • Meditate or practice breathing exercises to gain composure before your visit
  • Don comfortable attire to help you feel more at ease in the dentist's chair
  • Bring music, books and magazines to distract you before and during treatment
  • Ask a friend or loved one to come with you for extra support

The More You See Your Dentist, The Better

It may be hard at first, but over time, seeing your dentist will become easier – especially if you identify and treat the root cause(s) of your anxiety. Furthermore, frequent dentist visits can lower your chances for the more invasive procedures you may have feared in the first place. Regardless of what you may have experienced in the past, your oral health is worth every effort – and you may be pleasantly surprised to find that dentistry has come a long way from what you remember.

Sources:

10 Tips to Help You Overcome Dentist Phobia. (2015, March 29). Retrieved June 10, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/library/phobia_dentist.htm

Don't Fear the Dentist. (2012, March 1). Retrieved June 11, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/dont-fear-the-dentist

Easing Dental Fear in Adults. (2014, May 22). Retrieved June 13, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/easing-dental-fear-adults

 

7 Surprising Foods that are Staining Your Teeth

February 10th, 2019

7 Surprising Foods That Are Staining
Your Teeth

Wine, coffee and tea–it's the trifecta of tooth-staining foods that almost everyone knows to avoid in order to protect their pearly whites. These beverages, however, are just the beginning of a long list of foods that can sabotage your smile, and chances are that many are flying undetected right under your very nose! From condiments to candy, put these sneaky offenders on your radar to keep tooth discoloration at bay.

Common Tooth-Staining Foods

  1. Tomato-Based Meals
    The high acidity level of tomatoes coupled with their bright red color can pack quite the punch on the enamel of your teeth. From your mom's homemade spaghetti sauce or soup, or your favorite brand of ketchup, constant exposure to even the smallest of doses can be damaging.
  2. Curries
    As rich in color as they are in flavor, many spice blends rank high in staining power, due to brightly colored ingredients such as turmeric and saffron. Over time, their pigments can leave a yellowish tint on your teeth.
  3. Dark Sauces
    Whether it's food infused with soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, or other dark liquid, you can bet that eating enough of it will also dim your smile. If it's the base of your meal, there's a definite risk to the enamel of your teeth, but even side dips can be just as harmful because they are often more concentrated.
  4. Clear Soda
    Dark sodas already get a lot of notoriety for discoloring teeth, but don't switch to clear soda just yet! While its lighter color can make it seem like the better choice for those who love soda, it's still high in sugars that can eat away at tooth enamel and leave them prone to staining.
  5. Fruit Juices and Berries
    Fruit is undeniably nutritious, and many juices now come with no sugar added, but fructose is still a form of sugar, and it is bad news for tooth enamel. In fact, the darker color of certain fruits and juices–such as blueberry or grape–can have a staining effect similar to wine.
  6. Sports Drinks
    Because their makers often do a masterful job of promoting rehydration and electrolyte replacement, it's easy to overlook the sugar content and bright, fluorescent colors. Similar to soda and fruit juice, however, both the pigment and sugary nature of these drinks can leave your teeth less than white in no time.
  7. Hard Candies and Popsicles
    If they can turn your tongue into a rainbow of colors in a matter of seconds, just think of what they can do to your teeth! Even if consumed occasionally, prolonged sucking puts the surface of your teeth in direct contact with sugar, acid and dye–resulting in tooth decay as well as discoloration.

Tips To Prevent Tooth Staining

Cutting out many of these problem foods can go a long way in keeping your smile sparkling, but it may be unrealistic to avoid certain foods completely. Here's how you can help protect your teeth from sugary, acidic and/or colorful food:

  • Eat thoroughly, but quickly to minimize any contact with the tooth's surface
  • Use a straw to help bypass most of your teeth when drinking beverages
  • Drink plenty of water during and after meals to wash away food particles
  • Brush and floss your teeth after meals to help prevent stains from setting in
  • Use whitening toothpaste to help remove stains and keep teeth sparkling

Professional Treatment Options

In addition to practicing good hygiene and being more mindful about your diet choices, professional dental care can do wonders in keeping your smile bright. Seeing your dentist regularly for a cleaning and checkup can help prevent and detect tooth staining, and there are many cosmetic whitening procedures that can remedy existing discoloration, whether mild or severe. Schedule a visit with your dentist for the optimal treatment plan for you.

Sources:

7 Foods That Are Secretly Staining Your Teeth. (2014, Feb. 7). Retrieved June 5, 2015, from http://www.womenshealthmag.com/beauty/foods-that-stain-teeth

Foods and Habits That Stain Your Teeth. (2009, Nov. 10). Retrieved June 3, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/foods-stain-teeth-feature?page=2

Lee, Robert. (2014, October 24). 7 Foods and Drinks that are Staining Your Teeth. Retrieved June 2, 2015, from http://esteemdental.com/7-foods-drinks-staining-teeth/

 

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