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.

4 Common Major Roles in Oral Health

Daily Habits to Better Oral Health

You might not be aware that some small everyday items can assume major roles in your dental health if you just let them.

Sugar-free Gum

Chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after meals and snacks has been proven to help keep teeth healthy. According to the Oral Health Foundation, chewing on sugar-free gum stimulates the production of saliva which in turns helps to neutralize plaque acids. It increases the amount of saliva we produce, which is the body’s natural defense system for our mouth and teeth. It helps wash away food particles before they become trapped on, around or in between our teeth. It also helps remineralize tooth enamel, which helps to strengthen our teeth. Gives fresh breath, too.

New Toothbrush

Replacing your toothbrush at least every 3 months or as soon as you start to see wear on the bristles can do your health a lot of good. A new, good quality toothbrush can do better work. Dentists sometimes recommend using an electric toothbrush as it has proven to be quite effective in helping clean our teeth. Remember to be gentle on your teeth and gums. Hard brushing can destroy enamel and bruise soft tissue.

Fluoride in Toothpaste

Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by slowing the breakdown of enamel and increasing the rate of the remineralization, thus strengthening the teeth. It helps to discourage the growth of bacteria. Check the presence of fluoride in the toothpaste you buy and have regular mouth-wash with fluoride in them also. Know if your community water supply is also fluoridated; studies show that there is lowered incidence of cavities and decay in areas where the water system incorporates fluoride.


This is another simple, everyday tool that contributes to oral health. At least once-a-day flossing before retiring to bed can assist your tooth-brushing routine. With proper flossing, you remove food debris stuck in-between your teeth as well as under the gumline. This removes the chances of bacteria starting in surfaces your toothbrush cannot reach.

Knowledge is Power in Bellingham

Know more about simple stuff that play major roles in good oral health. More importantly, keeping your dental appointments enables you to really be on top of things where your teeth and gums are concerned.

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.