Athletes at Higher Risk for Poor Oral Health

If you or your child are an athlete, you’re probably already in excellent physical health. But what about your oral health? You might think that because you take care of your body and your teeth, your oral health is in great shape. But a new study by the University College of London and published in the British Dental Journal says you could be dangerously mistaken.

The study followed 352 athletes of both genders, examining their teeth for decay, acid erosion and the health of their gums – all things that are checked at a regular oral health checkup, according to Fort Collins, Colorado, dentist Dr. Allison Lesko.

Lesko says what they found was quite startling.

“The athletes did take better-than-average care of their teeth, meaning they were more likely to brush twice a day for two minutes per brushing, and floss at least once a day,” Lesko says. “But somehow, these athletes had a higher rate of cavities.”

In fact, almost 50 percent of the athletes in the study had untreated tooth decay and early-stage gum disease. Nearly a third even claimed that these oral health problems hurt their athletic training and performance.

Researchers were baffled. How could people who take such excellent care of their teeth and overall health have such a higher instance of dental problems than the rest of us? The answer lies in something athletes use that the rest of us don’t.

“Sports-performance products,” says Lesko. “Things like sports drinks, energy gels and energy bars are the likely culprits here.”

That’s because sports and energy products are packed with something that may be good for athletic performance, but isn’t so great for the teeth: sugar.

“The sugar in some of these energy products sits on the teeth, feeding that bacteria that cause the plaque acid, which creates cavities,” says Lesko. “And if you’re training, you may not have time to run to the bathroom and brush after each time you use these products.”

Lesko says while the sugar and acids from sports drinks can stick to the teeth, busy athletes should rinse with water after drinking.

“And try not to drink the same drink all day,” she says. “Try to finish the drink quickly and drink some water.”

As for the gels and bars, these products are arguably more dangerous because they can stick to and between the teeth, so dentists like Lesko recommend brushing after eating.

“We know it’s not always easy to stop playing or practicing to brush your teeth, but try to get to a toothbrush as soon as you can,” she says. “It can go a long way toward keeping the teeth – and your game – healthy.”


Ancient Teeth Reveal Truths About Diet Versus Oral Health

Many of us have probably already heard that foods containing sugar can wreak havoc on our oral health, but have you ever wondered how much of a role your diet really plays in your oral health? Well, a team of researchers at the University of Arkansas wondered the same thing and set out to determine how dietary changes have affected humanoid teeth over time.

The research used teeth dating back millions of years to a species of an early human ancestor called Hominin Paranthropus, led by Dr. Peter Ungar, an anthropology professor at University of Arkansas. At Ungar’s lab, he and his team studied both the Hominin Paranthropus and a tribe of people from Tanzania called the Hazda who still live as hunter-gatherers to this day.

The research team noticed that as the Hazda and Paranthropus societies advanced from hunter-gathers to more agriculturally based societies, their teeth began to develop more cavities.

“What the researchers found was that the more meat-based the diet was, the fewer cavities the species had,” says Dr. Allison Lesko, a dentist from Fort Collins, Colorado, who was not involved in the study.

So, what was behind the increase in cavities? After all, agricultural products like fruits and vegetables shouldn’t be responsible for that many cavities.

“They found that, for starters, the male citizens of the Hazda and Paranthropus societies had worse teeth than the women,” Lesko says. “In fact, some of the female teeth are perfect, while the male teeth were riddled with dental caries.”

The answer is honeycomb, something that, according to Ungar and his team, is a common snack for hunter-gatherer males to consume while on hunts. The honeycomb provided a much-needed source of energy, but the comb itself is made of a waxy material that adheres to and between the teeth.

“Without a toothbrush, that wax could stay stuck to the teeth for a long time, causing cavities,” Lesko says.

But Ungar’s study doesn’t just aim to examine the anthropological history of teeth and cavities. He and his team hope to someday develop a device that could measure and treat dental erosion. As for what researchers like Ungar want people to take away from the study?

“The study highlights how important our diet is to our oral health,” Lesko says. “It’s not just about how well we care for our oral hygiene. What we eat makes a huge impact on our oral health, too.”


Celebrate ADHA Oral Hygiene Month

Even though our oral hygiene is important every day of the year, the month of October has been designated Dental Hygiene Month by the American Association of Dental Hygienists, or ADHA. Each October since 2009, the ADHA and its members have celebrated all things oral hygiene and dental hygienist, usually with a different theme each year.

This October, Dental Hygiene Month is once again celebrating hygienists and all they do for our teeth – and reminding us of the healthy steps we can take to ensure we have the best dental hygiene possible. Dr. Allison Lesko of Fort Collins, Colorado, shares these steps with us.

“First and foremost, the No. 1 tip from the ADHA and any dentist is to brush your teeth regularly,” says Lesko. “This means brushing your teeth not once but twice per day, for at least two minutes each time.”

According to Lesko, nearly half of all people around the world only brush their teeth once a day, and that’s not nearly enough to prevent dental caries (also known as cavities) from forming.

The next tip? Flossing.

“Flossing may not seem that important unless you have something stuck between your teeth, but it should be a part of your regular dental hygiene routine,” Lesko says.

Lesko and the ADHA recommend flossing at least once a day, preferably at the end of the day so plaque and food particles don’t stay stuck between your teeth overnight.

“Flossing removes about 30 percent of the plaque and food particles that brushing can’t get to,” says Lesko.

Finally, the ADHA recommends you rinse with mouthwash after brushing and flossing.

“Mouthwash will remove and rinse away any bits of plaque and food that you missed brushing and flossing,” Lesko says. “And it makes your breath fresh, too.”

Though there has been some debate about whether mouthwash should be used prior to brushing to loosen plaque and debris or after brushing and flossing, Lesko says rinsing with water first should suffice.

“Save the mouthwash for when you’re done so you get the full effect and benefits of the mouthwash.”

For those who have tried mouthwash in the past and aren’t a fan of the taste or feeling, Lesko says the mouthwashes of years past have evolved. There are now alcohol-free varieties and different flavors that may be tolerated easier than the old minty standbys.

Oh, and one last tip: Be sure to thank your dental hygienist this Dental Hygiene Month!


The Benefits of Dental Implants

It’s not uncommon for adults who are missing any number of adult teeth to feel embarrassed or insecure about their appearance. Unfortunately, though teeth are part of our bodies, unlike bone they cannot heal themselves or grow back when lost or extracted. For those missing adult teeth, this often means either going without a tooth or wearing a prosthetic bridge or denture to fill in the gap. But for a more permanent solution to replace missing adult teeth, there is a more permanent solution: dental implants.

Dental implants are prosthetic teeth that attach to the gums via a metal screw that is implanted into the jawbone. Once the screw has healed securely into place, a prosthetic crown is screwed on to the exposed metal screw, creating the look of a natural tooth. Considered the gold standard in replacing teeth, dental implants do more than just improve patient self-esteem and the look of the mouth. Here are some other benefits to installing dental implants.

Speech

Though not true for everyone, when you are missing teeth it can sometimes affect your speech. Missing teeth can make it sound like you have a lisp or speech impediment, something that can make you feel self-conscious. This can cause problems in a person’s work and personal life and cause them to withdraw from engaging in conversations or speaking up about important matters.

When you replace missing teeth with dental implants, your speech should return to normal, giving you the confidence to speak up again.

Chewing

When you are missing a tooth or teeth, chewing may become difficult or even painful. The good news is that with dental implants, your crown acts as a natural tooth, enabling you to chew regularly without any pain or discomfort, as if your natural tooth or teeth were never missing in the first place.

Protection of Other Teeth and Gums

Another benefit to replacing lost teeth with dental implants is the effect dental implants will have on your other teeth. When you are missing adult teeth, it can cause a lot of trouble for your existing teeth, bones and gums. First of all, there’s a risk of bone degradation in the space where the tooth was removed. The longer a bone goes without a tooth, the higher the risk of bone degradation. Bone degradation can cause the loss of other teeth as well as a sagging face and jaw.

Closing the gap with dental implants can also protect your gums from gum disease, because plaque and bacteria have a harder time getting into the gums.

Easier to Care For

Cleaning dental implants is easier than cleaning dentures, because you can brush them and floss between them just like you would your natural teeth. With dentures, you must remove them to clean them very carefully. Because dental implants mimic natural teeth removing them is not necessary for most cleanings.

To learn more about the dental implant process from Dr. Lesko, please call 970-812-0355.


Whitening Teeth at Home: Yes or No?

The pursuit of whiter, brighter teeth is a $3.2 billion-a-year global industry. Suffice it to say, many of us are searching for a prettier smile. But walking down the toothpaste aisle of your local store can be almost dizzying with options. How do you know what works and what doesn’t work? How can you tell what’s safe and what isn’t? And if you buy an over-the-counter whitening product or device, are you really saving any money over professional whitening? Here’s what you need to know about bleaching your teeth.

When it comes to whiter, brighter teeth, bleaching with the active ingredient hydrogen peroxide is the gold standard used by dental professionals as well as many over-the-counter bleaching kits. Unfortunately, while at-home kits tend to be less expensive than professional whitening services, they do carry with them a high level of risk.

For starters, many of these kits can contain upwards of 25 percent hydrogen peroxide, a dangerous level if applied incorrectly. To put it into perspective, in the United Kingdom, where products containing hydrogen peroxide are regulated by the government, even dentists can only use products containing 6 percent hydrogen peroxide!

Why? Because hydrogen can damage enamel as well as gums. Unfortunately, because whitening kits are classified as cosmetic and not medical products here in the United States, there are no data on how often this type of injury occurs, as cosmetic manufacturers are not required to submit that data to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Another popular ingredient that is widely available here in America, sodium chlorite, was recently investigated in a study published in the British Dental Journal. The study found that sodium chlorite was more likely than any other over-the-counter ingredient to cause permanent damage to the tooth enamel.

So, what can be done for those of us who want whiter teeth? Look no further than your dentist. Yes, in-office whitening treatments are a bigger investment up front, but with better, longer-lasting results and the benefit of being done safely and accurately, it can actually save you money in the long run. Other safe and effective ways to whiten teeth at home include brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day, not smoking, and avoiding foods that stain the teeth.

To learn more about teeth whitening and oral hygiene, contact Dr. Lesko’s office at 970-812-0355.


What Causes Malocclusion?

Malocclusion, or the misalignment of the teeth as the jaw closes, is a common dental problem. Having malocclusion can be as simple as having crooked teeth or, as you may have heard Dr. Lesko say, a “bad bite.” Typically, malocclusion isn’t serious and can be corrected by orthodontics or by orthognathic surgery. But in some cases, it can cause pain and damage to the teeth due to uneven wear or teeth that bump into each other while speaking or chewing. However, despite malocclusion’s common treatment options, there are many different reasons people have malocclusion. Here are just a few.

Thumb Sucking or Pacifiers

Sometimes if a child sucks his or her thumb or uses a device such as a pacifier for too long after developing teeth, the teeth can grow outward and become “bucked” or crooked. This is a type of malocclusion that can be corrected by braces. That being said, if you have a young child who exhibits these behaviors, the sooner you stop them, the better their teeth will be. We recommend ditching pacifiers before or as soon as the first tooth comes in, and we recommend children not suck their thumbs at all.

Dental Work

In some cases, the dental work we have done to correct the teeth can cause malocclusion accidentally. If you have a tooth pulled, a crown placed, or even sometimes poorly installed or damaged orthodontics, you can develop malocclusion. This is why it’s very important to be seen by a board-certified dentist or orthodontist, and to make sure you are attending all your regularly scheduled appointments.

Genetics

Sometimes when it comes to our teeth, we are simply dealt a more challenging hand, thanks to genetics. If your dad had gapped teeth, you may also have gapped teeth. If your mom had a malocclusion such as a crossbite, you could develop the same malocclusion. The good news is this type of malocclusion typically presents itself early, so you can work with your child’s dentist and orthodontist to develop a treatment plan that possibly includes orthodontics to help correct the malocclusion as a child, before it becomes more difficult to move.

Ready to learn more about malocclusion? Call Dr. Lesko’s office today at 970-812-0355.


Oral Health and Beauty

For some people, looking their best is important. Your appearance is your calling card to the world – what people see when they first meet you – and it can affect your life in many ways, including in the workplace. In fact, a recent study found that women who wear makeup earn on average 30 percent more than women who don’t! Makeup and beauty are so prevalent that, according to a 2017 People magazine article, the average woman will spend $15,000 in her lifetime on beauty products alone!

But one thing many people don’t realize is that while spending an arm and a leg on beauty may be a wise investment, if you’re not paying attention to your oral health, you’re not getting your money’s worth. That’s because beauty and oral health are tied closely together – and when your oral health is suffering, the rest of your appearance could, too. Here are some ways your oral health can influence your beauty routine.

Acne

Do you suffer from breakouts around the mouth that won’t seem to go away no matter how many products you try? That acne could be the sign of a tooth infection, gum disease or tooth abscess. That’s because the inflammation from inside your mouth could be worsening or causing the inflammation outside and around your mouth.

Dry Skin

Do you have dry skin? Do you wash your face before or after you brush your teeth? If you are brushing your teeth after you wash, you could be drying out your skin with toothpaste residue. Have you ever heard of the wives tale that toothpaste dries out zits? Well, it does – and it doesn’t. Toothpaste dries out the skin but does not heal acne. So, when you use toothpaste on a zit, you are simply creating another problem for your skin, not healing the one you have. If you do have acne, speak to your doctor about which products are safe to use on your skin, and save the toothpaste for your teeth. Remember to brush before you wash.

Sallow Skin

Does your skin look sallow or dull despite makeup, lotions and facial treatments? It could be that the color of your teeth is casting it in a bad light. If your teeth are less than pearly white, schedule regular cleanings with Dr. Lesko and keep them gleaming!

Ready to make your teeth as beautiful as the rest of your face? Call and schedule an appointment with Dr. Lesko at 970-812-0355.


Tips for Treating Sensitive Teeth

If you have sensitive teeth, it can really take the joy out of your daily life. From passing up your favorite foods like hot coffee and ice cream to experiencing discomfort during hot or cold weather, sensitive teeth affect more than just your mouth. This condition can really affect your mood too. But thankfully you don’t have to simply accept the discomfort and inconvenience of sensitive teeth. Here are some lifestyle changes you can make that may go a long way toward lessening the pain of sensitive teeth, so you can get back to enjoying the foods and activities you love without the sensitivity!

Change How You Brush

Yes, there is a wrong way and a right way to brush your teeth. If you are brushing your teeth too hard, brushing your gums, or brushing back and forth, you could be harming the gums and causing gum recession. Gum recession in turn can cause – you guessed it – sensitive teeth. If this sounds like how you’re brushing, try this instead: Hold your brush at a 45-degree angle and brush in small circular motions. If you need a demo, ask Dr. Lesko and her team at your next appointment.

Change What You Brush With

Sometimes we may be brushing the right way, but with the wrong brush. This is an easy fix. Stick with a medium to soft-bristled brush and follow the brushing guidelines above. Save those hard-bristled brushes for your tile grout!

Change Your Toothpaste

If you are experiencing sensitivity but not using a sensitive toothpaste, it may be time to switch. Sensitive toothpaste is made with an ingredient called potassium nitrate, which is used to fill in the tiny pores in the teeth called tubules. These tubules lead to the nerves, so when they’re blocked, you can actually prevent hot and cold foods and air from reaching those nerves. It’s kind of like how the insulation in your walls blocks the outside weather from getting inside your home.

Change Your Diet

While you shouldn’t have to change your diet to accommodate tooth sensitivity, there are certain foods that forgoing may make it easier to live life pain free. Foods that are high in acid such as citrus and soda or foods that are high in sugar may make sensitivity worse, so eliminating these where you can from your diet may enable you to enjoy other foods again.

Ready to make an appointment to talk about your tooth sensitivity? Call Dr. Lesko’s office today at 970-812-0355.


Epigenetics Could Someday Restore Tooth Roots

Imagine someday being able to eliminate missing teeth by restoring the roots of decayed teeth. If researchers at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California have their way, that could be possible. That’s because researchers have found a formula that could regenerate those roots, using a process called epigenetic regulation.

Epigenetics is defined as the study of alterations to organisms via modification of gene expression, and epigenetics may be the key to controlling the pattern and formation of tooth rot.

Researchers discovered that tooth rot patterns are controlled by proteins called Arid1a and Ezh2. When these two proteins are in balance, and in certain configurations of tooth roots are in just the right place with the jawbone, a tooth rot pattern can be established.

Dr. Allison Lesko is a Fort Collins-based dentist. She says this type of breakthrough could make a huge difference in how we treat rotten teeth.

“Right now, if a tooth is badly decayed, there’s a chance it may need to be pulled,” Lesko says. “With this discovery, they may someday be able to restore tooth roots, which means even if a tooth is pulled we may not need to rely on dentures or dental implants to replace it.”

That’s because with regenerated roots, the researchers at USC believe they can create enough of a replacement tooth to at least cover it with a crown.

“A crown over an existing tooth is a much better option than a dental implant,” says Lesko. “While dental implants are really the Cadillac of dental prosthetics, there is always a chance of something called implant failure.”

Implant failure occurs when the screw used to anchor a dental implant to the jaw fails to implant itself into the jawbone. This can happen due to bone loss or deterioration, which can occur when too much time passes between the loss of the tooth and the attempted implantation.

“With regenerated tooth roots and a bit of naturally regrown tooth, the risk of implant failure would be obsolete,” Lesko says.

Another benefit to the study that was noted by its authors? The discovery could someday treat cancer, too.

According to the researchers at USC, some cancers can be affected by epigenetic regulators; when these regulators are out of balance, cancer can develop. The key to treating these cancers is to find a way to balance the epigenetics and stop the cancer in its tracks.

“I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about epigenetics in the near future,” says Lesko. “There are some exciting breakthroughs already, and they’re still just scratching the surface.”


Brushing Teeth with Shampoo?!

It’s a safe bet to say we all care on some level what we put into our bodies. With organic food markets springing up around the country and a return to farmers markets and farm-to-table eating, more and more Americans are paying close attention to what they ingest. But a recent controversy about a common ingredient in toothpaste may be misleading to some.

The ingredient, sodium lauryl sulfate, is used in toothpaste to create that signature foaming effect we all know so well. The alleged problem? The ingredient is also used in shampoos and detergents.

“Stop Brushing Your Teeth with Shampoo,” decries one blog, a mindset that dentists like Fort Collins-based Dr. Allison Lesko cautions against.

“Calling toothpaste shampoo is a slippery slope,” she says.

That’s because, though the sodium lauryl sulfate acts the same in all products, it isn’t actually shampoo. It is a surfactant. In shampoo, it ensnares dirt and oil sitting on your scalp and along your hair shafts, making it easier to rinse away. In toothpaste, sodium lauryl sulfate helps to both evenly spread out the ingredients in your toothpaste but, similarly to shampoo, allows you to remove and rinse away plaque and bacteria from the surface of your teeth.

“You want that foaming action to remove the debris from your mouth,” says Lesko. “If it does that, it’s doing a good job.”

Dentists and toothpaste manufacturers believe the uproar over sodium laurel sulfate is much ado about nothing, but some toothpaste manufacturers with natural product lines have still removed sodium lauryl sulfate from some varieties of their products for those who absolutely must avoid it.

Lesko, for her part, likens it to another recent outcry: the brief controversy over flossing.

“A few years ago a study came out and said that flossing wasn’t necessary, but that was proven to be false,” she says.

What we do know about flossing is that in addition to making the teeth look and feel better (and getting that stuck food out), it also cleans the 30 percent of the teeth you can’t reach by brushing alone. It also helps reduce the amount of bacteria that reach the gums, helping to reduce the risk of gingivitis and periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause everything from lost teeth and gum tissue to a long list of diseases. It has most recently been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s my recommendation that patients not panic when rumors like these are started, but if they really don’t want to brush their teeth with sodium lauryl sulfate, look into ADA-approved toothpastes that don’t contain it,” Lesko says.