The Last Straw: Did It Really Help Your Teeth?

The Problem With One-Use Plastic Straws

Did you know that 500 million plastic straws are used daily in the US? It may or may not count the unknown number that are washed up into our oceans and do much damage to the marine environment. And to think that these one-use plastic items are not degradable, at least in the next 300 years. Also, these products fill up our landfills, consuming space and wasting resources for disposal. While disposable plastics feed our growing desire for convenience, millions and millions of homes, restaurants, hotels and others the world over are contributing to a major environmental hazard that is already upon us.

Plastic Straw Ban

Many cities have already banned the use of plastic straws at public establishments, yet there are quarters of dissent. For example, many people use straws to drink their sugary beverages, including coffee and tea and wine, to prevent staining their teeth. What do dentists say about that? Dentists once believed that drinking from straws reduces the contact between liquids that stain and the teeth, which prevents teeth going yellow. However, things have changed a bit.

Some dentists point out that sipping with straws can avoid direct contact between the drink and the teeth, other activities or habits can discolor teeth as well. Eating curry, tomato sauce, soy sauce can stain teeth, as well as smoking and chewing tobacco, and treatments like chemotherapy. So drinking with a straw certainly isn’t going to prevent discoloration itself and can’t be said to protect teeth entirely.

Aftercare is more important than resorting to straws. Rinsing your mouth with water immediately after drinking something that stains is much more helpful and must be habitual. Tooth brushing, mouthwash rinses and chewing on sugarless gum remove stains better.

Plastic disposable straws are much more beneficial to people who have disabilities. If you need to drink with a straw, for convenience, then use an eco-friendly straw or your own personal straw that’s reusable. Or better scrap it all together, and know you are saving our oceans doing that.

Helping The Environment Bellingham Way

So if you think using plastic straws can help your teeth from staining, get into the healthier, eco-friendly habit of mouth-rinsing and tooth brushing instead. It’s so much more chic, says your Bellingham dentist.

New Study: Linking Dental Health and COPD

COPD Patients Ignoring Oral Health

A small observational study published in the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Journal of the COPD Foundation found that people with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have poor dental hygiene practices and reduced quality of life that is oral health-related. In the context of poor dental health, the greater number of patient’s teeth involved correlated with worsened daily respiratory symptoms.

Patients with COPD are reported to have poor oral hygiene and dental problems. With worsening symptoms, patients are unable to obtain adequate dental care possibly due to impaired mobility due to illness, use of oxygen, continued smoking, or poor access to dental insurance.

The small 60-day study included healthy controls and patients with COPD. Participants were 40 years or older. The COPD group had to have specific spirometric findings and at least a 10 pack-year smoking history. The healthy controls had to have no airflow obstruction and no current smoking. 30 participants were recruited (10 healthy controls, 20 with COPD). All 10 healthy participants completed the study, and in the COPD group, 3 dropped out.

Both groups had similar teeth brushing habits, at least once a day. More of the healthy controls had more frequent dental visits. Healthy controls also usually flossed once per day, while COPD participants, none. They also had a history of more dental infections, tooth extractions and higher prevalence of dentures, as well as fewer teeth. The COPD group had higher average amount of plaque on tooth surfaces but not statistically significant. Breathlessness was also positively correlated with the number of teeth had a positive correlation with percentage of days with cough, and wheeze, and sputum production.

The researchers noted that the microbiome of the lungs resembles the oral microbiome. The more diseased teeth a patient has potentially provide a large reservoir of pathogenic bacteria, such as Haemophilus influenzae, in saliva, which could create worsened respiratory symptoms. In addition, chronic periodontitis is a common inflammatory disorder and has previously been described in patients with COPD, but was not measured in this study.

Knowing Your Health

Bellingham dentistry is well aware how dental health can be impacted by certain medical conditions as serious as COPD. We monitor patient’s medical conditions whilst we treat their dental concerns. It’s always good to let us know health concerns or issues, especially history, before treatment.

Treating Sleep Apnea with Dental Care

Understanding the Connection Between Sleep Apnea and Dental Care

Sometimes patients are surprised that dentist ask them about the quality of their sleep. Many Americans don’t get enough sleep they need, and some don’t know why. Snoring and sleep disturbances are often signs of obstructive sleep apnea, and these are usually blamed on oral health. The dentist is often the earliest diagnostician of sleep disorders.

What happens if I have sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea will cause the patient to have repeated breathing interruptions throughout the night. These interruptions last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur 30 or more times per hour. This is due to the muscles in the back of the throat becoming flaccid, the tongue is too large, or the jaw is too small, causing airway obstructions. The patient experiences restless sleep and feel unwell or fatigued waking up in the morning.

If sleep apnea is the root cause, there are several options to care for it, including oral appliance therapy, such as the CPAP machine. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure and is considered the “gold standard” for treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and has been available for 30 years. While it is the primary option for care, it’s a mask that must be worn at night, and some patients don’t want to sleep wearing one.

The director and some of his colleagues at the Dental Sleep Medicine and Orofacial Pain at the UTHSC (University of Tennessee Health Science Center) are coming up with a solution to stabilize the whole mechanism, the jaw and everything else, to prevent the jaw from dropping back.

The appliance is custom fit to the patient’s mouth and holds the lower jaw in a slightly forward position, much like a retainer or a sports mouth guard. Some are attached a little, some are not attached at all, but they still have some mechanism to prevent that collapse. The device can also help to prevent snoring in some of its patients. The patient is fitted with the device that best suits the mouth shape and the breathing issue. Follow-up visits ensure it sits properly and is relieving the problem.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Options in Bellingham

Learn more about sleep apnea from your Bellingham dentist and know that the condition can be managed by oral appliance therapy. Sit down with us and let’s talk your sleeping disorder.