Dark chocolate with cocoa on wooden table

Dark chocolate is good for your teeth.

We love dark chocolate. Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, Halloween or just an ordinary Tuesday, it seems to make everything better. But dark chocolate doesn’t just make us happy because it tastes great.

This delicious treat is one of the most complex foods we know and contains over 300 natural chemicals, including one called phenylethylamine, which arouses similar feelings to those we feel while we’re in love.

So when we say we love dark chocolate, it’s because we really might be in love with it!

Is dark chocolate healthy?

Short answer: Absolutely.

Dark chocolate is an antioxidant-rich superfood. It can improve your mood, reduce your risk of heart disease and may even help prevent cancer.

Dark chocolate may even make you smarter. One study found that eating dark chocolate every day can increase blood flow to your brain and help with cognitive thinking as you age. And we like any study that encourages us to eat more chocolate!

The best news of all, though, is that dark chocolate can help you lose weight, as long as you only eat 1-2 ounces, or 6-8 grams, each day.

So I can eat half a bar of dark chocolate every day?

We think you should talk that one over with your family doctor first. But according to everything we can find, it is perfectly healthy to eat raw cacao nibs, 1-2 ounces of an organic dark chocolate, or even half a dark chocolate candy bar you’d find at a gas station every day.

As always, we recommend you floss after and rinse with mouthwash – just to keep your smile free of leftover sugars that can stick to your teeth.

Is dark chocolate better than fluoride?

New studies show that dark chocolate is effective at fighting cavities, plaque and tooth decay.

Dark chocolate is a good source of polyphenols, natural chemicals that can limit oral bacteria. They are also able to neutralize microorganisms that cause bad breath and prevent some bacteria from turning sugar and starches into acid, which love to wreck havoc on your teeth.

Antioxidants in dark chocolate have been shown to fight periodontal disease. And research suggests it might be better at fighting tooth decay than fluoride. There’s also a compound found in chocolate called CBH that could be used in mouthwashes and toothpaste someday.

Does that mean I can brush my teeth with chocolate?

Please don’t.

Is milk chocolate good for my teeth?

Short answer: No.

If you’re used to eating milk chocolate or other artificial chocolates, it’s time to put your foot down and shout, “It’s dark or nothing!” Because in reality, it’s cacao that has so many benefits, and dark chocolate is 70% cacao.

Milk chocolate contains milk and extra sugar to add sweetness and lower the cost of production. So some bars of milk chocolate contain as little as only 10% cacao.

So let’s stick to the real thing. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to find a bar of chocolate with around 70% cacao. And enjoy your new nightly tradition. And why not join us as we say it just one more time…

WE LOVE DARK CHOCOLATE!

Man looking through a magnifying glass

Bleachorexia & The Quest For Whiter Teeth

Teeth whitening is a billion-dollar industry. In 2016 alone, Americans spent more than $1.4 billion on over-the-counter teeth whitening products. And with the never-ending deluge of ‘grams, snaps and tabloids reminding us that our Hollywood idols have impossibly white smiles, this trend isn’t going anywhere. Some dentists have even taken to giving the obsessive quest for whiter teeth its own name – Bleachorexia.

History of Teeth Whitening

Even though whitening strips and bleach trays have only been around for 30 years, the quest for whiter teeth has been going on for millennia. In ancient Egypt, white teeth were a sign of wealth so they’d use twigs to apply a paste of wine vinegar and ground pumice stone to their teeth. Think that sounds gross? The Romans used urine to whiten theirs! In the Middle Ages, barbers acted as surgeons and dentists too, and they’d actually file teeth down before putting nitric acid on them!

Thankfully those days are behind us. Since the 1980s, dentists have been perfecting the art of whitening teeth with in-office whitening treatments and take-home whitening gels. But patients are often concerned with the cost of these treatments and will turn to inexpensive, over-the-counter alternatives which unfortunately—without the expert advice of a dentist or hygienist—can lead to some unintended dental disasters.

Dangers of Over-the-Counter Teeth Whitening

The problem with over-the-counter bleaching products is that they are not regulated by the FDA, and many people will leave trays on too long or use them too often. Using bleaching trays too often really does more harm than good because over-bleaching can remove the protective layer of your teeth called enamel. Ironically enough, teeth with less enamel are not only weaker and prone to tooth decay – they will also appear more yellow in color!

Bleaching fears are why many people turn to whitening toothpaste which—like all toothpastes—is abrasive. Toothpaste abrasiveness can be measured by its relative dentin abrasion (RDA) value, but these values are rarely printed on packaging. We always recommend talking to your dentist about which toothpaste is right for your teeth, but if you’re curious about the RDA of your favorite brand, there are many charts available online. The common belief is that toothpastes under 150 RDA are best for your teeth.

Remember that whitening products can make teeth more sensitive, as well as harm gum tissue, tooth nerves, and tooth pulp which can result in mild discomfort or severe pain. If you notice after home treatments that you have bleeding gums, extra sensitivity or discoloration, your best bet is to stop immediately and schedule a checkup with your dentist. Experts say the negative effects can be reversed, but sometimes caps and veneers will be needed to protect over-bleached teeth.

Teeth Whitening Tips

Teeth whitening, especially in-office whitening or at-home whitening gel, is very safe and effective in moderation. And our practices offer a variety of payment options to help you achieve the smile of your dreams. If you’re ready to whiten, we’ve got some tips that will help you do it right.

  1. Consult your dentist first. We understand that teeth whitening gum or inexpensive, store-bought bleaching trays might be easier on your bank account than a trip to the dentist. But in-office teeth whitening or at-home whitening gels are much safer and more effective than anything you can buy at the store. The whitening gel used by dentists is designed to absorb into teeth on the microscopic level through your naturally porous enamel layer and be retained by the tooth at the level of the dentin, where the actual color of the tooth is determined. Home kits don’t follow the same process,  and their active ingredients are generally combinations of hydrogen peroxide and/or varieties of bleach (to chemically remove stains and whiten the enamel) or abrasive pastes (to grind the stained layer of enamel off the tooth).
  2. Wait 6 months between treatments. As we’ve said, excessive brushing and over-bleaching can remove enamel and hurt your teeth over time. If you choose to use over-the-counter whitening products, please follow directions and consult your dentist about which products are best for you.
  3. Buy brand names you can trust and be skeptical of home remedies. Remember the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Crest, Colgate and other big names in oral care have been doing this a long time whereas bloggers and online retailers have less of an obligation to protect consumers. Use your best judgment and at least talk to your dentist before trying popular DIY whitening ideas like coconut oil pulling, brushing with hydrogen peroxide or rubbing apple cider vinegar on your teeth.
  4. Take care of your overall health. Acidic foods like pickles and citrus fruits can wear down enamel. And an unhealthy diet can contribute to unhealthy teeth and gums. So if you’re interested in a brighter smile, invest some time in your overall health. Drink water. Don’t smoke. Get some exercise. And don’t forget to floss. Because—believe it or not—flossing cleans more surface area of your teeth than brushing does.
  5. Invest in an electric toothbrush (and a water flosser too). For best results, we recommend you take the leap into the 21st century and invest in an electric toothbrush and water flosser, which have both been shown to improve oral health. Our practices recommend Sonicare toothbrushes and WaterPik flossers, and we offer discounts to our patients. All you have to do is ask!
Diabetes and Oral Health

Diabetes and Oral Health

Diabetes can cause serious tooth and gum problems. 

Diabetes affects 1 in 10 people in the United States and can lead to vision loss, kidney damage, high blood pressure and problems with feet and hands. People with diabetes are also far more at risk for periodontal disease than the general population, and experience almost 3 times the rate of tooth and gum problems. Research suggests that diabetes is the primary systemic risk factor for periodontal disease.

People with diabetes are often aware of the importance of podiatric (foot) and opthalmic (vision) screenings, but many do not realize the two-way relationship between oral health and diabetes. Tooth loss, for example, is up to two times more frequent in people with diabetes than non-diabetics. Periodontal disease can affect insulin sensitivity, lead to unhealthy blood sugar levels and damage the bone and gum that hold your teeth in place.

So if you have diabetes, paying special attention to your oral health can not only improve your quality of life and overall health, but it can also save you money. Statistics show that receiving dental care reduces average medical costs by about $2800 per year.

Dental Tips for People with Diabetes

The good news is that you can keep your teeth and gums healthy. By following our simple tips, you can help prevent some serious problems in your mouth.

  1. Take control of your blood glucose. Develop a healthy eating plan and get regular exercise if you’re able. Try to eat consistently. Focus your attention on carbs, portion control, and eating lots of fiber and non-starchy vegetables.
  2. Brush, floss, rinse and chew. We call these the Daily 4. Brush your teeth for two minutes two times daily. Floss your teeth before bed. Rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash after meals. And chew gum to help your mouth produce helpful bacteria that attack plaque.
  3. Visit your dentist for routine checkups. Consider all the medical professionals in your life a kind of health management team. Start a conversation with your dentist about your diabetes and any symptoms you’re experiencing. Speak with your doctor about your oral health. Remember that health is holistic and there are many connections between your oral health and the rest of your body.
  4. Quit smoking. You can watch one of those ads here.If you’re still smoking, it’s time to stop. We know it’s difficult, but the evidence against smoking is inarguable. In fact, a federal court has ordered all major tobacco companies to begin running advertising over the next year that admits they made cigarettes more addictive and lied about the health risks associated with smoking.
  5. Talk with a diabetes educator. If you’re worried you’re not doing the best you can to manage your diabetes, you might want to consider meeting with a diabetes educator. As a member of your healthcare team, a diabetes educator makes managing your diabetes easier. They work with you to develop a plan to stay healthy, and give you the tools and ongoing support to make that plan a regular part of your life. You can find a diabetes educator near you at diabeteseducator.org.

 

Symptoms of Gum Disease, Gingivitis and Periodontitis

Since gum disease is often painless, you may not even know you have it until it becomes serious.

So if you have diabetes and want to monitor your oral health for the best results, watch out for the following symptoms. If you think you are experiencing any of these, schedule a conversation with your dentist to evaluate your gum health. Your problems may only be minor, but

  1. Swollen or tender gums
  2. Gums that easily bleed while brushing and flossing
  3. Receding gum line
  4. Difficulty chewing
  5. Chronic bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
  6. A buildup of pus between teeth and gums
  7. Loose teeth or teeth that are drifting apart

 
Taking control of your oral health can help you manage or prevent diabetes. In addition to following our tips, regular conversations with your dentist about your overall health and symptoms can help them provide the best care for your future. If you’re diabetic or experiencing any of these symptoms, we’re always just a phone call away!

Halloween celebration concept with candy corn and jack o lantern cup on wooden table.

The Worst Halloween Candy For Your Teeth

Binge-eating a pillowcase full of peanut butter cups and candy corn while you’re dressed as Wonder Woman is kind of the point of Halloween, isn’t it? But we all know that candy isn’t the healthiest snack on the block – even if you promise to brush and floss when you finally finish stuffing your face.

Sadly, the only candy out there that doesn’t contribute to tooth decay and cavities is probably sugar-free gum. But you’re not knocking on your neighbors’ doors in search of chewing gum, are you? Learn more about the negative effects your favorite candy can have on your teeth or—if you’re impatient—scroll to the bottom of the page to find out the worst!

Closeup of chocolate,peanut and caramel bar isolated on white with clipping path

Chocolate

Examples: Hershey Bar, 3 Musketeers, M&Ms & Peanut Butter Cups

If you’re a chocoholic, you’re in luck. As long as you’re eating a simple bar of chocolate without caramel or many other ingredients, you’re getting a snack that will wash off your teeth fairly easily. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, even has some health benefits! It’s an iron-packed source of antioxidants that may improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease, and improve brain function.

Chocolate is probably the best candy for your teeth. But remember, moderation is the goal here. Too much of anything is bad for you.

Sour candy isolated on a white background

Sour Candy

Examples: Sour Patch Kids, Warheads, SweeTarts & Pixie Stix

Sour candy has a higher acidic content than other types of candy. It’s probably no surprise to you, but eating something like Pixie Stix–which are nothing more than flavored sugar you don’t even have to chew–doesn’t provide any nutritional value and can lead to cavities in addition to blood sugar issues.

If you’re going to indulge with sour candies, try rinsing with a glass of water afterward to wash away the cavity-causing acidity contained in these mouth-puckering bites.

Lollipops in a variety of colors isolated on a white background

Hard Candy

Examples: Jolly Ranchers, Runts, Lemon Heads & Lifesavers

Hard candy like lollipops and jawbreakers is just as bad for you as sour candy, and for many of the same reasons. Because we often suck on hard candy to get it to dissolve, it is in our mouths much longer than other Halloween candy. This just leaves more time for sugars to attack and break down tooth enamel.

If hard candy is a habit for you, we don’t have a lot of good news to share. Try switching to sugar-free gum when you get that urge. And of course remember to rinse after you’re finished with hard candy, even if it’s just tap water.

Gummy bears

Gummy and Chewy Candies

Examples: Gummy Bears, Swedish Fish, Bit-O-Honey & Mary Janes

Like we mentioned above, about the only candy you really want to be chewing on is sugar-free gum. The mixture of sugar and gelatin in gummy bears and worms is very acidic and will wear down tooth enamel, which can lead to exposed nerves and sensitive teeth.

Hey. We love Haribo Gold Bears just as much as the next person, but let’s try and limit ourselves to one bag a week. We can live with that, right? Hopefully. Maybe. Let’s just say we’ll give it a shot.

Saltwater taffy on a white backgroundTaffy or Caramel

Examples: Caramel Chews, Saltwater Taffy & Riesen

The worst halloween candy for your teeth is a tie between taffy and caramel. These bite-sized, sticky morsels of pure sugar get trapped in the grooves of your teeth and are more difficult to rinse away with salvia or water than the average candy. When sugar like what’s inside taffy or caramel gets stuck to teeth, it creates excess bacteria in your mouth which allows acids to thrive and develop into tooth decay. Caramel also contains small amounts of saturated fat, which increases your risk of heart disease.

The worst part of very sticky Halloween candies is that they can pull out fillings, bridges or braces! If you’ve got an orthodontic appliance or fillings, it is best to just stay away entirely.

 

Plus size women jogging and exercising at the park and walking outdoor in the city streets in Chicago, United States - USA. Weight loss concept

Walk for Women’s Health & Fitness Day

The last Wednesday in September is National Women’s Health & Fitness Day, a day that encourages women to take control of their health, make healthy choices and engage in regular physical activity. This year’s theme is: “Fitness…It’s a Smart Choice for Life!”

In addition to eating right, drinking enough water and getting regular checkups, studies show that getting just 150 minutes of exercise per week could add an extra 3.4 years to your life! Women’s Health & Fitness Day is the perfect chance for us to get up, get moving and get started on our health and fitness goals.
 

What are the health benefits of walking?

 
Hippocrates famously said “Walking is the best medicine.”

And believe it or not, walking might be healthier than running. Walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running – and it doesn’t put as much wear and tear on your knees and hips.

Walking also eases back pain, lowers stress and protects against dementia, osteoporosis and depression.
 

How long should I walk?

 
How long you should walk probably depends on your current level of fitness. A lot of people go by the 10,000 steps rule which amounts to roughly five miles – but that sounds a little scary to anyone just getting started! We recommend taking a walk in the morning, during your lunch break or after work, because these are great times of day to clear your mind and destress.

If you haven’t exercised in a while, try walking for five minutes, taking a break and going for another five. Research shows that doing anything physically active is infinitely better than doing nothing. So if you only make it five minutes, don’t beat yourself up – you’re doing great.
 

Need more help getting started?

 
We know it’s easier said than done. So if you’re nervous about getting started on the right foot, try sharing this post with a friend and inviting her to walk with you! Remember that health and fitness isn’t all or nothing – it’s step by step. So set a reachable goal just for today. And worry about tomorrow tomorrow.

If you’re looking for a little extra motivation, check out some of the materials we’ve gathered for you below.

Make Activity Part of Your Lifestyle - Oregon State University

Oral Care Tips for Healthy Aging

Oral Care Tips for Healthy Aging

Growing older often means facing new and unexpected health challenges. Knee pain, weight gain, vision and hearing problems – these are all normal side effects of aging. But there’s a misconception that tooth loss is in inevitable, and that’s just not true.

Depending on lifestyle and genetics, some people keep their natural teeth their whole lives. Others manage with only a few implants, crowns or a bridge. But if you take care of your teeth and gums throughout your life, you might be able to avoid complicated health issues down the road.

Why Oral Health Matters at Every Age

When people think of a healthy smile, they often think of straight or white teeth. But good oral health involves much more than a year in braces or the occasional teeth whitening.

Your mouth basically acts as a window to your overall health. Links have been found between cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. These diseases can manifest as gum inflammation, tooth loss or sores. Women especially should pay close attention to their gum health during pregnancy – as periodontitis has been linked with premature birth and low birth weight.

Teeth become less sensitive and more susceptible to tooth decay as you age. Following an oral care routine while improving other habits can not only improve your quality of life, but help you keep your teeth and gums healthy too. Healthy natural teeth will keep your healthcare costs down in the long run, because you’ll need fewer fillings, sealants, or more costly procedures like root canals and crowns.

5 Oral Care Tips for Healthy Aging

Follow the Daily 4

Brush. Floss. Rinse. Chew. It’s not a new concept, but it bears repeating. Brushing twice, flossing, using mouthwash and chewing sugar-free gum each day is a routine that keeps your mouth healthy. If you have trouble cleaning the spaces between your teeth near your gum line, we recommend Soft Picks from GUM®. If your gums or teeth are sensitive, talk to your dentist about toothpaste options and soft-bristle toothbrushes.

Don’t Smoke

Another one we’ve all heard time and time again. Smoking cigarettes not only stains your teeth and makes it harder to breathe, it can also lead to heart disease, lung cancer, pregnancy complications, erectile dysfunction, anxiety, poor vision and oral cancer. If you’re considering smoking alternatives like vaporizers, cloves or smokeless tobacco – don’t. None of these alternatives have been proven to be safe alternatives, and some could be even more harmful than cigarettes.

Rethink Your Drink

According to a major study, “the odds of dying from heart disease rose in tandem with the percentage of sugar in the diet—and that was true regardless of a person’s age, sex, physical activity level, and body-mass index.” And drinking sugar-sweetened beverages doesn’t just make you gain weight, it can also lead to diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and heart, tooth and gum disease. Sugary drinks eat away at the enamel of teeth, causing teeth to become weaker and thinner over time. This can lead to tooth decay, cavities and missing teeth.

You can add some flavor to your water with lemon, lime or cucumber slices. Or switch to sparkling water if you can’t live without a little carbonation in your life. 1% or skim milk is also a great choice because it includes calcium, which keeps your bones and teeth strong.

Replace Missing Teeth

If you are missing teeth, it is very important that talk with your dentist about replacing them. Your jaw is designed to operate with 28 teeth and as soon as one is out of the equation, the surrounding teeth start to drift into the empty space. This not only makes your good teeth more prone to decay and gum disease, but it can also change your appearance. The longer you wait after a tooth is extracted, the more bone volume you lose. And the more bone volume you lose, the more expensive and difficult it becomes to get teeth replaced.

If you’re interested in replacing one or more missing teeth, you have options! Talk with your dentist about dental implants, fixed partial dentures (fixed bridge) or dentures to replace your missing teeth.

Schedule an Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancer is commonly associated with alcohol consumption and tobacco products. However, recent studies have found other causes for oral cancer as well such as HPV. An oral cancer screening uses technology to check for abnormal cells or lesion in the oral cavity. Any abnormality detected will indicate the need for more advanced screenings and tests.

Early detection saves lives. The sooner your dentist catches an abnormal lesion or cell, the better and more predictable the treatment will be – because it will be less invasive. So ask your dentist at your next checkup to screen your mouth for oral cancer symptoms.

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