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The Perks of Dairy

October 20th, 2021

We all remember hearing this: “Finish your milk, it’s good for your bones!” If you have kids of your own now, you may catch yourself repeating many of the things you were told growing up.

Though parents occasionally exaggerate to get their kids to do certain things (such as eat veggies or behave), they’re spot-on about milk. Consuming enough dairy every day is crucial for growing children, because this can set them up to have strong and healthy teeth for the rest of their lives.

To understand the effects of dairy on your child’s teeth, take a look at tooth structure. Think of it in terms of layers: the innermost layer is the living tissue, the second layer is dentine (a calcified tissue), and the final one is the enamel, aka the white part of the tooth. Keep in mind that 96 percent of your enamel is made up of minerals like calcium.

Now, milk and other dairy products are excellent sources of calcium, so when you consider the need to build strong enamel for the first line of defense, it’s easy to see the connection between dairy and good dental health. When your son or daughter consumes dairy products, the body sends the incoming calcium to growing bones, which includes teeth.

This makes children’s teeth and bones stronger all around. Growing youngsters who do not get enough dairy in their diet are at risk for improper tooth development, as well as other dental problems.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, children under the age of eight should be receiving at least two and a half cups of dairy per day. Children older than eight require three full cups, which is the same amount recommended for male and female adults.

If you’re looking for easy ways to incorporate dairy into your children’s diet, try snacks like cottage cheese, a milk-based smoothie, yogurt, cheese sticks, non-fat milk, and fruit parfaits, to name a few. Once you get a feel for what they like most, furnishing the ideal amount of dairy to their diet should be no problem!

If you’re concerned about your child’s teeth or have questions about a healthy diet, don’t hesitate to contact our Silverdale, WA office and ask a member of our team.

Root Canal Recovery

October 13th, 2021

Anyone who has had a compromised tooth knows that the amount of discomfort it causes can be extremely unpleasant. Although no one looks forward to a root canal, this procedure is actually the best way to both eliminate pain and save your tooth. If the pulp inside your tooth is infected or damaged, a root canal is probably necessary.  

The process is relatively straightforward and can take place over one or two visits to our Silverdale, WA office. The area around the tooth is numbed, the pulp is removed from the inside of the tooth, the area is thoroughly cleaned, and a temporary filling or crown is placed on the tooth to prevent bacteria and food from entering the site. A permanent crown will be fabricated and affixed to the tooth at a later visit.

Once your root canal is finished, recovery is usually only a matter of days. What can you to keep yourself as comfortable as possible during that time?

  • The area around the affected tooth might be somewhat sore or sensitive for a few days. Let us know, and we can talk about medication to reduce pain and inflammation. If you are prescribed antibiotics, be sure to take the entire course of medication as directed.
  • Taking an ibuprofen (if this is a pain reliever that is safe for you) before the anesthetic wears off will reduce the soreness in the hours immediately after the procedure.
  • Wait until the numbness is gone before eating to avoid biting down on a temporary filling (or your tongue). Hot drinks are also best avoided.
  • Avoid chewing on the side of the affected tooth until the restoration is complete. A soft diet is recommended for the first several days—chewy, sticky, and crunchy foods should wait.
  • Continue with regular brushing and flossing.
  • Call Dr. David Houpt immediately if you experience severe pain or visible swelling, if you have an allergic response to medication, if your bite feels uneven, or if you lose the temporary filling.

Follow the instructions we’ll give you carefully, and feel free to call us with any concerns. We want to ensure that your root canal is as pain-free and worry-free as possible.

Planning Your Vegetarian Diet with Your Oral Health in Mind

October 6th, 2021

If you’ve been following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you know that there’s much more to living a healthy life than simply avoiding meat products. Making sure your diet includes enough protein, as well as any nutrients that are primarily available in animal products, takes planning, and there’s no one-menu-fits-all solution.

Why? Because there’s no one menu that will suit all vegetarians. Specific vegetarian diets can allow for many different options:

  • Vegan—a plant-based diet which excludes meat, fish, dairy, and egg products
  • Ovo-vegetarian—includes eggs as a dietary option, but no dairy
  • Lacto-vegetarian— includes dairy as a dietary option, but no eggs
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian—a meat-free diet which allows both dairy products and eggs

If you are a pescatarian, who eats fish on occasion, or a flexitarian, who sometimes includes meat in a meal, your menu options are even broader.

So let’s look at the big picture—a healthy vegetarian diet is really more concerned with the foods you do eat for nutrition rather than the foods you don’t. You can create a meal plan rich in all your essential nutrients with a little research, no matter which type of vegetarian diet is your go-to choice.

And while you’re constructing your ideal menu guidelines, don’t forget about your dental nutrition!

In terms of keeping your teeth and gums their healthiest, what important vitamins and minerals are often missing from vegetarian and vegan diets? Let’s look at three of them.

  • Calcium

Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and tooth enamel. Without enough calcium, a weakened jawbone leads to loose, and even lost, teeth. The acids in our food and the acids created by oral bacteria also weaken the minerals in enamel, including calcium. These weak spots can eventually become cavities. A diet rich in calcium not only supports the bones holding our teeth, but can even help repair, or remineralize, enamel which has been weakened by acidic erosion.

For vegetarians who include dairy in their diets, dairy products are a great way to include calcium. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are traditional and rich sources of this mineral.

For vegans, it’s a bit more challenging, but still doable! Non-dairy foods providing calcium include dark green vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach), certain types of tofu, and fortified cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks.

  • Vitamin D

Now you’re ready to put that calcium to work by making sure you have enough vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D not only helps keep our bones healthy, it also enables our bodies to absorb calcium. Bonus—it’s been linked to better gum health in several studies.

So how to get more vitamin D? If you eat dairy, most dairy products have been fortified with vitamin D. If eggs are a part of your diet, egg yolks are a great source. Pescatarians can enjoy the benefits of vitamin D from fatty fish such as tuna and salmon.

Because we get most of our vitamin D from sun exposure or foods derived from animals, plant-based foods are not a practical way to obtain the vitamin D you need. But, just as non-vegetarians can get plentiful vitamin D from fortified dairy products, vegans also have options. Try adding cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks fortified with this essential nutrient to your diet, or take a vegan vitamin D supplement.

  • Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy red blood cells, nerve cell development, brain function, and DNA production. (This is why it’s especially important for pregnant and nursing women.) Vitamin B12 can also impact your oral health. A B12 deficiency can cause a swollen, sore, or inflamed tongue, loss of taste, and gum, tongue, and mouth ulcers.

Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is reliably found only in animal foods and nutritional yeasts. If you would prefer an egg-free and dairy-free diet, look to B12 supplements or B12-fortified cereals, plant-based milks, energy bars, and other vegan options. This is a good subject to discuss with your physician, because even supplements and fortified foods might not provide enough B12.

In fact, Dr. David Houpt can be vital resources when you’re planning your healthiest vegetarian diet. The next time you visit our Silverdale, WA office, ask for recommendations for supplements if you’re concerned that diet alone can’t provide for all of your nutrition essentials. Finally, care should be taken to ensure that, even with supplements, you get the proper amount of the vitamins and minerals you need.

As a vegetarian, you are used to the concept of care. Whether it was concern for nutrition, the planet, the animal world, or another reason that drew you to a vegetarian diet, be sure to care for your body as well as your dietary choices. Careful planning can ensure a diet which supports not only your general health, but your oral health, for a lifetime of nourishing—and well-nourished—smiles.

Playing “Tooth or Dare”

September 29th, 2021

Our teeth perform several vital roles for us. We use them to bite and chew, to help form words, to support our facial structure. And never underestimate the power of a smile!

But once you try to expand that job description, you are asking for trouble. Using your teeth for tasks they were not designed for is a game no one wins. What are some of the worst moves you can make? Putting your teeth into play as:

  • Ice Crushers

Crunching hard objects like teeth and ice cubes together can have one of two results—the ice will give, or your tooth will. If your tooth is the loser, you can expect cracks, fractures, worn enamel, and even dislodged crowns and fillings. If you’re tempted to chew on the ice in your drinks, try asking for a straw or using slushy ice instead. (The craving for ice can also be a symptom of other medical conditions—check with your doctor for more on that subject.)

  • Bottle Openers

If ice vs. teeth is a bad idea, metal vs. teeth must be a really bad idea. Those sharp hard metal caps can be difficult to remove even with a bottle opener. Don’t take a chance on chipped, fractured teeth and lacerated gums to get to that beverage faster/work around a lost opener/impress your friends.

  • Nut Crackers

Just because nuts offer more protein than ice doesn’t make their shells any safer to crack with your teeth. Besides the danger of fractured teeth and eroded enamel, biting on whole nuts can produce sharp splinters of shell that can damage delicate gum tissue. By all means, enjoy nuts—they pack a lot of nutrition in a small package. But buy them already shelled, or invest in a nutcracker.

  • Cutting Tools

Teeth aren’t meant to be scissors or utility knives. Even if you are trying to bite through the top of a relatively soft bag of chips, or a piece of duct tape, or a tag that just won’t come off your new clothes, you are putting pressure on your teeth in ways that they are not meant to handle. Don’t take a chance on chips and fractures.

  • A Helping Hand

Using your teeth to hold the straps of your heavy bag, or the leash of your well-trained pet—what could go wrong? How about an awkward fall? Or a squirrel? Or something that might possibly be a squirrel? Any fall or force that applies violent pressure to your teeth and jaw is a potential for dental disaster.

  • Stress Relief

You might grind your teeth or bite your nails whenever you feel nervous. Please find another form of stress relief! Grinding and clenching the teeth can lead to worn enamel, jaw pain, broken teeth and restorations, and a host of other problems. Biting fingernails is not only hard on your nails, but also introduces bacteria into your mouth and can cause damage to your tooth enamel.

If you grind your teeth at night, ask Dr. David Houpt about a nightguard during your next visit to our Silverdale, WA office.

This is real life, and you really don’t want to be playing “Tooth or Dare” with your dental health. Use your teeth for what they were designed for, and you’ll take home the grand prize—a lifetime supply of beautiful, healthy smiles.