Winter is coming! And with it, possibly the potential for some negative oral health effects.
To be clear, it is not winter itself that affects oral health. But winter brings with it changes in diet and routine that can affect the health of the teeth and gums. Here are three important ways that can happen.
Winter is full of holidays to celebrate. Most Americans enjoy more sweet treats, like holiday cookies and candy, this time of year. Many also increase their intake of “fun” drinks like hot cocoa, flavored coffees (white chocolate peppermint mocha, anyone?), and wine.
This uptick in sugar intake carries with it an increase in the risk for cavities. Bacteria in dental plaque, called Streptococcus mutans, eat sugar as their primary fuel source. The by-product of that sugar is an acid that softens and weakens tooth enamel, allowing the bacteria to break through and dissolve hard tooth structure.
Cavities destroy tooth structure and require dental treatment to repair. You can avoid them by practicing great oral hygiene at home to remove dental plaque.
Many people drink less water in the winter than in the summer. It is a matter of feeling less thirsty when someone is cold than when he is hot. We also may drink more coffee and/or alcohol, which both have a dehydrating effect on the body. When your body is dehydrated by inadequate water intake, it cannot make enough saliva.
A dry mouth is not a healthy mouth. Saliva plays an important role in protecting the teeth and gums from dangerous, disease-causing bacteria in dental plaque. Without it, the risk for both cavities and gum disease rises sharply!
Fight the risk of dry mouth by drinking plenty of plain water during the cold months. Your body needs water to make enough saliva. You can also stimulate the natural production of saliva by chewing sugar-free gum. This helps to neutralize the pH in the mouth and reduce the stickiness of dental plaque.
It is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But for many, the holiday season is the most stressful time of the year. Schedules become busier with events multiple evenings each week. There is the added burden of purchasing Christmas gifts for loved ones.
The cold weather may lead to increased isolation for many people. For some, winter is a stressful time. With stress often comes increased muscle tension. In the mouth, that muscle tension may manifest as clenching or grinding of the teeth.
When we clench or grind the teeth, we put excessively heavy forces onto them. Our teeth and jaws are not able to withstand more than normal chewing forces without suffering damage.
For some, the forces of clenching and grinding may crack or break the teeth themselves. Others notice a gradual shortening and flattening of their teeth. Some patients suffer receding gums as the result of heavy clenching and grinding.
We often see patients with headaches and facial pain due to hyperactive muscles in the jaws. Some also have pain and degeneration in the jaw joints (TMJs) from these excessive forces.
If you find yourself clenching during the day, we can guarantee that you are also doing it at night while you sleep. The great news is that you can prevent the damage to your teeth, gums, and joints by wearing a protective mouthguard.
Call Rockland Dental Specialists to schedule a consultation with one of our dental experts today. We can answer any specific questions you have about your oral health and how you can protect it through the winter months. Call us at (845) 259-2500 or complete our online contact form today!