Posts for: August, 2014
We’ve all heard about potentially negative health effects from the sugar that’s added to many of our favorite foods. So these days, lots of us are trying to cut down on our consumption of sugar — not only to lose weight, but also to help prevent maladies like diabetes and heart disease. We can’t help noticing those pastel-colored packets — pink, yellow and blue — on the rack of our favorite coffee shop. But now we’re wondering: Are those sugar substitutes a good alternative to natural sugar? And which one should we choose?
Artificial sweeteners have been around for decades. Six different types (including the ones in the colorful packets) are currently approved as safe by the Food and Drug Administration; a couple of older ones (notably cyclamates) have been banned for many years. In addition to those zero-calorie sugar substitutes, low-calorie sweeteners called sugar alcohols (for example, mannitol and xylitol) are often used as food ingredients. So what’s the difference between them — and which one is best?
That’s not so easy to answer. If you have a rare genetic condition called phenylketonuria, you should avoid aspartame (the blue packet), because your body can’t process the substance. Otherwise, the choice may come down to a matter of taste. Even though they are FDA-approved, some controversy (both fact-based and far-fetched) remains about the long-term safety of sugar substitutes, and their usefulness in preventing obesity and other diseases.
Yet it’s clear that for some people, the consequences of consuming too much sugar could be much worse. So if you’re at risk for diabetes or certain other diseases, sugar substitutes can be an important tool in maintaining a healthier diet. They also have another health benefit: sugar substitutes don’t cause cavities. Further, some sugar alcohols (xylitol in particular) have the property of stimulating saliva flow, and have been shown to actually impede the formation of cavities. Oral health is an important (if sometimes overlooked) component of your general well-being, and several studies have pointed to a link between oral and systemic diseases — for example, diabetes and heart disease.
As with so many aspects of our health, there seems to be no “magic bullet” to cure all our diet-related problems. But used in moderation, artificial sweeteners can be a valuable part of the effort to improve our overall health and well-being. For more information on this topic, see the Dear Doctor article “Artificial Sweeteners.”
He’s the world’s highest-paid soccer player: a forward on the Spanish club Real Madrid, and captain of the Portuguese national team. His super-toned body is featured in a series of advertisements, and he’s regularly seen with a supermodel on his arm. So would it surprise you to know that it took a bit of dental work to help Cristiano Ronaldo get a world-class smile?
You might never guess it to look at him now — but when he was 18 years old, and just starting his professional career with Manchester United in England, Ronaldo wore ceramic braces to correct a set of teeth that were quite a bit… off-sides. (As pictures from that time show, his teeth were out of alignment and had irregular spacing.) Yet in a relatively short time, his smile was completely transformed.
Ceramic braces are the treatment of choice for many sports stars and celebrities — and plenty of “regular” folks too. They work just like traditional all-metal braces, exerting a gentle force that slowly moves the teeth into better positions. But they have one major difference: They’re a good deal harder to notice.
That’s because instead of having brackets made of metal, this style of braces uses a high-tech ceramic material to attach the archwire to the teeth. The brackets blend right in with the natural shade of the tooth, so all you can see from a distance is the thin metal wire. That makes them a great orthodontic option for image-conscious celebs (like Tom Cruise and Faith Hill, who both wore them) — as well as anyone who may be concerned that traditional metal braces don’t fit in with their “look”.
In addition to ceramic braces, there are other, less-visible orthodontic treatments that can work just as well in many situations. One is lingual braces, which are similar to traditional braces — except they are applied on the tongue-side of the teeth, making them truly invisible. Another is clear aligners, a series of transparent plastic trays that are worn 22 hours a day and gradually move the teeth into more pleasing positions. What’s the best way to know which system is right for you? Come in and talk to us about your options!
Besides braces, did Cristiano Ronaldo have other cosmetic dental work (like teeth whitening) done? It’s possible, but he’s not saying exactly. Yet, as he told a Portuguese magazine, “I feel good about myself and that’s the most important thing.”
If you would like more information about ceramic braces or other orthodontic treatments, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor articles “The Magic of Orthodontics” and “Orthodontics For The Older Adult.”
The preferred outcome when treating a tooth for decay is to preserve it. If the disease is still in its early stages, we can accomplish this effectively by removing diseased tissue and then restoring the remaining tooth with filling material.
There comes a point, however, when filling a tooth isn’t the best option. If it has already received several fillings, the tooth may have become too weak to receive another. Additionally, a filling may not be enough protection from further fracture or infection for teeth weakened from trauma or abnormal tooth wear or in the event a root canal treatment is necessary.
While a diseased tooth can be extracted and replaced with a durable and aesthetically pleasing dental implant, there may be another option to consider — installing a crown. Like a filling, a crown preserves what remains of a natural tooth, but with better protection, life expectancy and appearance than a filling.
Known also as a cap, a crown completely covers or “caps” a natural tooth. They’re produced in a variety of styles and materials to match the function and appearance of the capped tooth and adjacent teeth. Crowns made of porcelain are ideally suited for visible teeth because of their resemblance to tooth enamel. A less visible tooth that endures more biting force (like a back molar) may need the strength of a precious metal like gold or new-age porcelains that can also withstand significant biting forces. There are also hybrid crowns available that combine the strength of metal for biting surfaces and the life-like appearance of porcelain for the more visible areas of a tooth.
To prepare a tooth for a crown, we first remove any decayed structure and add bonding material to strengthen what remains. We then make a mold of the tooth and bite, which is typically sent to a dental technician as a guide for creating the permanent crown. Recent advances with digital technology have also made it possible to mill the permanent crown out of porcelain in the dental office while you wait.
After the permanent crown is received and permanently bonded to the tooth, you will have a protected and fully functional tooth. From this point on it’s important for you to clean and care for it as you would any other tooth since the underlying tooth is still at risk for decay. The good news is your tooth has been saved with a bonus — a long-term solution that’s also smile-transforming.
If you would like more information on crowns and other tooth restorations, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Crowns & Bridgework.”