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Mouths In Motion
Sweet Talk

Mouths In Motion

Whether you are a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, protecting your mouth, face, head, and neck should be a priority when you participate in your favorite sport or activity. Taking the appropriate protective measures while on the court, field, rink, or ring can save you from serious injury and costly dental repairs.

What sports pose a threat to oral health?
Any sport that presents the chance of contact or collision with another person, object, or surface can potentially cause injury to the teeth, jaws, and oral soft tissue. These sports include, but are not limited to, football, basketball, soccer, hockey, boxing, and lacrosse. Individuals who participate in sports, such as biking, inline skating, or skateboarding, also are at risk for injury.

How do mouthguards protect my mouth?
A custom mouthguard made by your dentist covers the upper teeth with a soft, flexible material that prevents serious injuries, such as broken teeth, jaw fractures, cerebral hemorrhage, and neck injuries, by decreasing the chance of the lower jaw of jamming into the upper jaw or being pushed back into the temporomandibular (jaw) joint. Mouthguards also are effective in preventing laceration (cutting) and bruising of the lips and cheeks. Mouthguards may reduce the severity and incidence of concussions as well.

What other types of protection do I need?
Helmets are very important when participating in sports that involve speed and impact. Properly fitted helmets can prevent major head injuries, as well as facial and neck injuries. Helmets should always fit well and be fastened correctly. For certain sports, other protective gear, such as face-masks and body pads, also should be worn.

What do I do if I experience trauma to my mouth?
If you experience an injury to your mouth, including major lacerations to your lips, cheeks, or gums, seek medical attention immediately. If you break, chip, or lose a tooth, or experience minor injury to your gums, tongue, or cheeks, contact your dentist immediately. If you seek treatment immediately after the injury occurs, your dentist often can save the knocked-out teeth and repair minor chips and cracks with appropriate dental materials. See your dentist for evaluation if your tooth changes color, if you experience any dental pain, or if you notice swelling in or around your mouth following trauma.

What should I tell my dentist about my physical activities?
Inform your dentist if you participate in sports or recreational activities. He or she can give you tips on how to best protect your mouth, face, head, and neck during these activities. Because mouth injuries can be painful and costly, dentists recommend that all athletes take preventative measures at all times.

For more information on your oral health consult with your family dentist, visit the Academy of General Dentistry, or contact Dr. Jonathan M. Goss, DDS, MAGD.

Sweet Talk

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol sweetener that is found in birch tree bark, beets, corncobs, raspberries, mushrooms, and other natural sources. Its sweetness is equal to that of sugar, but is has about 40 percent fewer calories, making it a popular sugar free substitute. Xylitol not only cuts calories, it also cuts cavities!

How does xylitol prevent cavities?
Xylitol helps prevent Streptococcus mutans, the primary bacterium associated with dental caries, from attaching to teeth and tissues in the mouth. Xylitol cannot be metabolized by bacteria; as a result, the process that creates harmful, enamel-eating acids is drastically slowed.

Regular use of xylitol has been shown to help reduce dental plaque- the first stage of cavity development, tarter formation, and tooth staining- and promote oral health.

How often must I use xylitol for it to be effective?
Xylitol is a natural and convenient way to supplement daily dental care. Xylitol gum or mints used three to five times daily (for a total intake of 5 grams) is considered optimal. Because frequency and duration of exposure is important, gum should be chewed for approximately five minutes and mints should be allowed to dissolve. Dentists recommend using xylitol immediately after meals and snacks to help reduce plaque, inhibit adhesion of bacteria to the teeth, and reduce contact time of sugar on teeth.

Has xylitol been evaluated for safety?
Yes. Human consumption of xylitol has been confirmed for safety by a number of agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization's Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, and the European Union's Scientific Committee on Food. Pet owners should note, however, that xylitol is harmful to dogs. To prevent xylitol poisoning, dog owners should be aware of products that contain xylitol as a sweetener, and keep those products out of reach of their dogs. Some other common foods harmful to dogs are: Grapes, raisins, chocolate, onions, and macadamia nuts.

What products contain xylitol and how do I find them?
Products containing xylitol have been available in the United States for a number of years, but only recently have its use become mainstream. Today, xylitol can be readily found in chewing gums, toothpastes, mouthwashes and other oral care products, candies, and some pharmaceuticals. On food labels, xylitol is classified broadly as a carbohydrate and more narrowly as a polyol.

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