Oral Care

Your toothbrush may be nastier than you think. Find out when to replace it....



Dentists say flossing is as important as brushing. Here's how to do it correctly....



Watch any red-carpet awards show, and there's a good chance some of the brilliantly white smiles beaming at the camera were custom-crafted by Los Angeles dentist Grace Sun, DDS. For 30 years, the renowned cosmetic dentist has created camera-ready grins for celebs such as Ellen Page, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sheryl Crow, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Samuel L. Jackson. Recommended Related to Oral Health

Are your pearly whites starting to look not so pearly? Maybe it's time to treat your teeth with a little respect. Paul Vankevich, DMD, an assistant professor of general dentistry at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, speaks for dentists everywhere when he lists four things you can do right now for a mouth that looks and feels fabulous. Kick the habit. Need another person in your life to explain why you need to quit smoking? Talk to your dentist. The nicotine and tar in cigarettes...

Sun's practice is about more than aesthetics, though. She also emphasizes the benefits of good oral hygiene. Even if you're not planning to attend a movie premiere anytime soon, you can benefit from the secrets she shares with her A-list clientele. Here's what she has to say:

Don't rely solely on your dentist.

"Some people give the responsibility [for their teeth] to their health professional -- they think all they need to do is go to the dentist for a cleaning twice a year. You should be responsible for your own oral health with daily home care."

Watch your diet.

"Diet is important. Certain foods are damaging to the teeth. The more acidic they are, the more chance there is of erosion, and that can be a problem. Refined foods adhere more easily to the surface of the teeth, which is why whole wheat bread is better for your teeth than white bread."

Think before you drink.

"Alcohol turns into sugar. People drink without thinking much of it, but alcohol will create erosion and damage the structure of the teeth."

Keep a fluoride stash.

"Have fluoride at home to re-mineralize the teeth, which will make them stronger and more resistant to breakdown. Ask what type of fluoride your health professional recommends. You can choose from a number of different fluoride gels or rinses. There are also alternatives, such as calcium phosphate."

Don't use your teeth as a tool.

"We see dental accidents. People use their front teeth as a tool -- for example, to open plastic bags. Your teeth should be working as a group. When they work as a group, the force distribution is better, and each one takes less stress. When you use one particular tooth to focus all the force, the chance of breaking it is higher. Teeth are not diamonds. You've got to be careful with them.

Ask your dentist about the basics.

"Some people I see brush only once a day. No one ever told them how many times they need to brush their teeth. We still need to review the proper home care program with our patients and not assume that they already know."

Grace Sun's Own Oral Health Habits

What's your dental care regimen?

"I treat this as a fun routine. I have a very soft microfilament toothbrush that I use for the gums, and I have a regular brush that's for my teeth, and I have a rotary electric toothbrush. I go through my brushing and then use my hydro floss oral irrigator. At the same time I do squats and relev├ęs. I have music on. To me, it's time to take care of myself."

How do you care for your teeth while on the go?

"I'm always able to brush. I have my hygiene bag with me. On the airplane, I go to the bathroom to do it. If I travel in the car, I have water so I can rinse."

How do you come up with the advice you give your patients?

"Whatever I tell them to do I try out myself. I try different toothpastes, different bleaching products. I go to the market and look at what's out there, like over-the-counter night guards and other types of dental products."


Poor dental health and gum disease may be linked to Alzheimer's disease and dementia, a new study from the University of Central Lancashire School of Medicine and Dentistry suggests....

Poor dental health and gum disease may be linked to Alzheimer's disease and dementia, a new study from the University of Central Lancashire School of Medicine and Dentistry suggests. Although past studies have suggested a link between oral health and dementia, this is the first to pinpoint a specific gum disease bacteria in the brain. Researchers looked at donated brain samples of 10 people without dementia and 10 people with dementia. They found the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis in the brains of four of those with dementia. This bacteria may play a role in changes in the brain in Alzheimer's disease, contributing to symptoms including confusion and failing memory. Everyday activities like eating and tooth brushing, and some dental treatment, could allow the bacteria to enter the brain. "We are working on the theory that when the brain is repeatedly exposed to bacteria and/or debris from our gums, subsequent immune responses may lead to nerve cell death and possibly memory loss," says Sim Singhrao, PhD, a senior research fellow at the university. This could mean that visits to the dentist could be vital for brain health, she says.  "The future of the research aims to discover if P. gingivalis can be used as a marker, via a simple blood test, to predict the development of Alzheimer's disease in at-risk patients." What Your Teeth Say About Your Health

More Research Needed

For now, "it remains to be proven whether poor dental hygiene can lead to dementia in healthy people," says St John Crean, dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. "It is also likely that these bacteria could make the existing disease condition worse."

Reacting to the findings, Alison Cook, director of external affairs at the U.K.'s Alzheimer's Society, said: "There have been a number of studies looking at the link between dementia and inflammation caused by factors including poor dental health, but this is not yet fully understood. This small study suggests that we need more research into this important area."

Also reacting to the study, Simon Ridley, PhD, head of research at Alzheimer's Research U.K., said: "We don't know whether the presence of these bacteria in the brain contributes to the disease, and further research will be needed to investigate this. It is possible that reduced oral hygiene, and therefore P. gingivalis infection, could be a consequence of later-stage Alzheimer's, rather than a cause.

"Other studies have suggested that infections, including oral infections, could be linked to Alzheimer's, and there is ongoing research in this area."

He said it will be important for future studies to consider looking back at dental records, to match these with oral hygiene during a person's life. 


woman biting ice cube

Do hot and cold temps make your teeth ache? Here's how to banish the pain of sensitive teeth....


 If you sometimes get a jolt of pain in your mouth when you drink or eat something hot or cold, you're not alone: A new survey of U.S. dental offices finds that one in eight people has over-sensitive teeth. Sensitive teeth were most common in young adults, women and people who had receding gums or did at-home tooth whitening. "The condition is impacting people's lives, and they may avoid some foods," said Dr. Joana Cunha-Cruz, a research assistant professor at the University of Washington and lead study author. Cold, hot, sweet and acidic foods and drinks often trigger the pain. "But it's not like they are feeling pain all the time," Cunha-Cruz added. Teeth might be sensitive for a few weeks and then fine for a few weeks. Sensitive teeth often occurs when enamel on the outside of the tooth, or the tissue between the tooth and gum called cementum, wears away, exposing small tubes that connect nerves inside the tooth to triggers outside of the tooth, Cunha-Cruz said. The current study included 37 general dental practices in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah. A total of 787 adults were surveyed. The results appear in the March issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association. Dentists in the study asked their patients if they had recently been bothered by pain, sensitivity or discomfort in their teeth or gums. Then the dentists examined the patients to make sure their pain was not due to another problem, such as a cavity, chipped tooth or swollen gums. About 12 percent of patients had pain or sensitivity that was not related to another problem, and thus were diagnosed as having sensitive teeth. Knowing the prevalence "gives dentists an idea of how much to look for this problem in their practice," Cunha-Cruz said. Previous studies have reported that anywhere from 1 percent to 52 percent of patients at general dental practices have sensitive teeth. The wide range could be due to differences in how people in the studies were screened, the authors noted. Some studies asked people directly about sensitive teeth, whereas others asked about specific consequences such as problems drinking cold water. "It's hard to generalize, but probably for people that are visiting the general dentist, one in eight have sensitive teeth that is bothering them," Cunha-Cruz said. However, study participants were predominantly white, nearly 82 percent, so it remains possible that teeth sensitivity could be more or less common in other racial groups, she added. Another dental expert talked about vulnerability to the condition. "Teeth sensitivity is universal, but some people and cultures could be more at risk depending on their diet, if it is very acidic, and if they drink a lot of wine or alcohol," said Dr. Richard Trushkowsky, associate director of International Aesthetic Dentistry at New York University. He was not involved with the study.