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Posts for: October, 2013

By Kevin L. Ragsdale, D.D.S.
October 30, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sugar substitutes  
SugarSubstitutesSweeterforToothHealth

If you're watching your weight or living with diabetes, you probably know the advantages of satisfying your sweet tooth with sugar substitutes rather than the real deal. Did you know that sugar substitutes can also help reduce your risk for tooth decay? One particular sugar stand-in, xylitol, might actually promote oral health!

Sugar substitutes are food additives that mimic the taste of sugar but supply little to no food energy (nutrition) and therefore zero or few calories. This is because they generally cannot be digested and absorbed by the body. They pass through largely unused and have little to no effect on blood sugar levels. Oral bacteria aren't able to process sugar substitutes either. They get significant nutrition from “real” sugars that pass through the mouth — generating tooth-eroding, cavity-promoting acids in the digestive process. A diet of artificial sweeteners eliminates or significantly curtails the acidity problem and essentially starves the “bad” bacteria so more tooth-friendly bacteria can crowd them out.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved 6 artificial sweeteners (synthetically produced zero-calorie sugar substitutes) for use in the U.S.:

  • Acesulfame K — Sunett®, Sweet One®
  • Aspartame — Equal, NutraSweet
  • Neotame — a modified form of aspartame
  • Saccharin — Sweet'N Low, Sugar Twin
  • Sucralose — Splenda
  • Rebaudioside A — Truvia, Sun Crystals, Stevia in the Raw

There also are naturally occurring low-calorie sugar alcohols (polyols), used alone or in combination with an artificial sweetener. They are incompletely digested and absorbed slowly so the amount of calories they generate is minimal. Commonly used polyols include erythritol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol. Research suggests that xylitol may help prevent tooth decay and promote oral health by reducing levels of the major acid-producing bacteria in the mouth, Streptococcus mutans.

Despite their virtues, there is debate regarding the safety of sugar substitutes — synthetic ones in particular. Currently the focus is on how they may affect taste perception, metabolism, and eating habits. From a dental perspective, however, the overall benefits for using xylitol are pretty clear!

If you would like more information about nutrition and oral health, 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 “Artificial Sweeteners.”


FixingAdultTeethIsNoMissionImpossible-JustAskTomCruise

It's no surprise that plenty of teenagers go in for an orthodontic evaluation and come out wearing braces. But sometimes, an observant orthodontist may notice that an adult's smile could use a little bit of improvement, too. Even an adult like — Tom Cruise?

That's exactly what happened to the star of Top Gun, Rain Man and the Mission Impossible franchise. Cruise, then 39, was taking one of his children for orthodontic work when it was pointed out that the leading man's teeth were also out of alignment. So he opted for braces too.

“Yes, Tom Cruise has braces,” said his publicist when the star appeared, sporting his new orthodontic appliances. “To him, it's no big deal.” Cruise chose to get the relatively inconspicuous ceramic type, with only a thin wire visible in front of his teeth. He wore them for about a year and a half, having them temporarily removed when it was time to make a movie.

Ceramic braces are a popular choice among adult orthodontic patients, many of whom find that less noticeable orthodontic appliances fit in better with their personal or professional lifestyle. Clear aligners also provide a virtually invisible option. We can help you decide which appliance would best meet your needs. But the first step is a thorough evaluation of your periodontal health.

Is it Risky Business to get braces as an older adult? Not usually — but if you do show signs of periodontal disease, which is more prevalent in adults than teens, it's important to bring it under control before beginning your orthodontic treatment. There are also a few medical conditions, such as heart-valve disease, severe uncontrolled diabetes, and leukemia, which might preclude treatment.

For most people, however, orthodontics offers a great way to improve your appearance and boost your self-confidence — even if you're not a movie star. It is estimated that three-quarters of adults have some form of orthodontic problem; and studies have shown that orthodontic treatment can enhance an adult's career opportunities and social life.

So, if you're looking for a better smile at any age, don't hesitate to contact us or schedule an appointment to discuss your treatment options. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Orthodontics For The Older Adult.”




Kevin L. Ragsdale, D.D.S.

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