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Improve your oral health with xylitol!

February 23rd, 2018

Xylitol tastes sweet, but unlike sugar, it is not converted to acid that can cause your teeth to decay. It’s a naturally occurring sweetener found in plants, fruits, and vegetables; even the human body produces it in small amounts. Xylitol is widely used in sugar-free chewing gum, mints, candies, and even certain forms of medicine.

The World Health Organization has approved xylitol because only a small amount is needed for its health benefits. It’s even safe for diabetics, with a glycemic index of only seven. Xylitol has 40% fewer calories than other types of carbs: less than three calories per gram.

So how can this natural sweetener benefit your oral health? Take a look at the facts. Tooth decay starts when bacteria consumes the sugars left in your mouth. When you eat sugary foods, the bacteria on your teeth will multiply and make acid that can destroy your enamel.

Xylitol is derived from fibrous parts of plants, so it does not break down like a regular sugar. It actually helps maintain a neutral pH level in the mouth, which in turn prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth. The bacteria are then unable to digest xylitol, which means your teeth won’t develop enamel damage and cavities.

Studies have shown the consumption of xylitol as a sugar substitute or a dietary addition had a dramatic reduction in new cavities and even reversed existing cavities. These effects are long lasting: low cavity rates remained years after the trials were done.

When there’s less bacteria and acid in your mouth due to xylitol, your teeth stay healthier. The more frequently it’s ingested, the more you will prevent enamel damage.

Aim to consume around five grams a day, or one gram every three hours if possible. You can do this by consuming gum, tablets, candy, or mints that have xylitol as one of the first ingredients after your meals. You can find these products in health food stores and specialty grocery stores.

Since xylitol replaces sugar on a one-to-one ratio, it’s used in several common items:

  • Toothpaste
  • Mouth rinse
  • Baby oral wipes, gel, and pacifiers
  • Nasal wash
  • Dry mouth spray
  • Granulated forms for cooking
  • Granulated packets to add to drinks
  • Commercially prepared foods

Make sure to pick up items that contain xylitol the next time you’re at the store! This is an easy way to maintain great oral health. If you have specific questions about xylitol, ask Drs. Bonni Boone, Susan Cocquyt, and Lori Risser during your next appointment at our South Bend, IN office.

Happy Gums, Happy Heart!

February 16th, 2018

Medical doctors and dental health professionals, like Drs. Bonni Boone, Susan Cocquyt, and Lori Risser, have debated over the connection (or lack thereof) between gum disease and heart disease. While there still is no unanimous consensus on whether there is a link – or the extent to any link there may be – several studies offer some interesting insight into possible correlations that may prove that there are some common factors that point to a likely correlation between the two.

Could there be a link between gum disease and heart disease?

Dr. Simone Ricketts reported on the findings of an Australian study of 80 patients in Profile Magazine. That study showed that 70% of the patients who participated in the study and needed heart transplants also had gum disease. She noted that other studies show a similar pattern, indicating that patients who needed heart transplants or other cardiac surgery procedures, were more likely to have dental problems.

Not Just Heart Disease Linked to Gum Disease

It isn’t just heart disease that experts are linking to periodontal disease, however. More and more evidence is showing that many chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes can be linked to periodontal disease. Poor oral hygiene resulting in gum disease was evident in blood tests that showed positive markers for inflammation.

Experts looked at a combination of over 120 medical studies focusing on a link between dental health and heart health. The findings of that research were published in the Journal of Periodontology and the American Journal of Cardiology. While there was no agreement on a definitive link, the research showed some promising results, and offer information that may be helpful to both dental health professionals and their patients.

On its own, gum disease increases the risk of developing coronary artery disease. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed that gum disease increases the risk factor for blood vessel and artery diseases when those arteries supply blood to the brain.

This is especially important for strokes because they are a common cause of inadequate blood flow to the brain. Data from another study of 50,000+ people found a higher risk of stroke among people with gum disease and tooth loss.

The study did, however, show two very important connections between gum and heart disease:

  • Both the gums of people with gum disease and the blood vessels of people who had atherosclerosis tested positive for similar types of bacteria.
  • Both patients with atherosclerosis and those with gum disease showed the presence of inflammation in their bodies.

Patients need to understand the importance of taking care of their mouths and doing whatever is necessary to ensure or support heart health – even if there is no guarantee that doing so will prevent either disease.

Team Dark Chocolate

February 9th, 2018

Valentine’s Day is the holiday to celebrate all the treasured relationships in your life. It’s a time to honor love in all shapes and forms with cards, social gatherings, and sometimes even binge eating of sweets.

It's hard to look the other way when grocery stores and pharmacies are invaded with goodies connected to the Valentine’s Day theme, and especially if you’re on the receiving end of some of these sweets. We get it. In fact, we’re all for it!

However, we also support a cavity-free smile. So in the interest of your dental and general health, and because we think it’s genuinely tasty, Drs. Bonni Boone, Susan Cocquyt, and Lori Risser recommends an alternative to the Valentine treats you may be accustomed to: dark chocolate. 

Yes, Healthy Chocolate Exists

Studies have shown that dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, an ingredient found in the cocoa beans used to make chocolate. Flavonoids can help protect the body against toxins, reduce blood pressure, and improve blood flow to the heart and brain.

By opting for dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate, you get to reap these benefits! Pretty sweet, right? Just make sure to stick to high-quality dark chocolates that have undergone minimal processing.

Dark Chocolate, AKA Protector of Teeth

Not only does dark chocolate provide some nice benefits for your overall health, it also helps protect your teeth against cavities! According to the Texas A&M Health Science Center, dark chocolate contains high amounts of tannins, another ingredient present in cocoa beans.

Tannins can actually help prevent cavities by interfering with the bacteria that causes them. Think of them as scarecrows for bacteria. They don’t always prevail, but isn’t it nice to have them there?

Smooth Never Sticky

Unlike many popular candies, dark chocolate is less likely to stick in the crevices of your teeth. Chewy, gooey sweets are more likely to hang around in your mouth for longer periods of time, which means they raise the odds of your harboring cavity-creating bacteria.

While some dark chocolates have additives like caramel or marshmallow, it’s best to opt for the plain varieties, which are just as delicious. If you’re feeling festive, though, a dark chocolate with caramel is still better than a milk chocolate with caramel, so that’s the way to go!

While dark chocolate has some pretty sweet benefits, the most important thing to remember (whether you go the dark chocolate route or not), is that moderation is key. That being said, we hope you have fun satisfying your sweet tooth and shopping for treats for your friends and loved ones. Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Erskine Family Dentistry!

Three Must-Have Dental Treatments

February 2nd, 2018

In dentistry, there are a wide variety of treatments, everything from elective procedures to those that are necessary and potentially lifesaving. So given the slew of treatment options, how do you choose what’s right for you? Our experts at Erskine Family Dentistry have handpicked the three must-have procedures that we believe can benefit nearly every patient.

The first: A complete periodontal exam. If you are going to the dentist for scheduled cleanings, this exam should happen at least once a year. A periodontal exam is quick and relatively painless. The dentist or hygienist will carefully probe around each tooth to take measurements that show the health of the bone and its supporting tissue, all while looking for signs of any active infection. It has been suggested that there is a link between periodontal (gum) disease and the increased risk of some potentially fatal diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Signs of some diseases show up in the mouth sometimes before the patient is aware of changes in the body. Diabetes is one of these silent diseases. Many Americans are unaware that they have the disease until sudden and severe changes in the periodontal health of the teeth lead to a trip to the patient’s physician. And did you know that more adults lose teeth to periodontal disease than to cavities? A simple screening once a year can lead to saving your teeth.

The second treatment our team at Erskine Family Dentistry recommends is a dental sealant; it’s not just for kids! Dental sealants provide a protective barrier from bacteria deep in the pits and grooves of the teeth where cavities often start. Sealants placed in childhood will often wear away in adulthood. Replacing a sealant as an adult can also help prevent decay in adulthood. This is a great cost-effective procedure for adults. Dental insurance will likely not cover sealants as an adult, but the cost of a sealant for prevention versus the cost of a filling is much less.

Our third must-have dental treatment is often the most fun: in-office whitening. Who doesn’t want an instantly dazzling smile? In-office whitening is one of the most dramatic and quick ways to brighten a smile. It will take a few years off your age in a two-hour period of time. Whitening is very safe and can give a patient newfound confidence to smile.

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