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Resolving to Eat Better in the New Year

December 30th, 2020

It’s a new year, and a resolution found on many lists is learning to be more mindful about healthy food choices. You might have set some of these goals yourself. Gaining, losing, or maintaining your current weight. More fruits and veggies. Better proteins. Less sugar. Fewer carbs. You want to make this new year your healthiest year yet.

And while you’re making your new and improved shopping list, don’t forget your oral health! Because while brushing and flossing are extremely important, your diet can also have very real benefits for your teeth and gums.

Stronger Teeth and Jaws

We often talk about teeth and bones together, and that’s natural. Calcium and phosphorus, as well as other minerals, make them the strongest parts of our bodies. When teeth lose mineral strength, they are more vulnerable to cavities, and bone loss in the jaw can cause loose or even lost teeth.

Making sure you get the recommended daily amount of the minerals and vitamins you need will help sustain and repair both teeth and bones. A diet rich in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D helps build strong bones and promotes bone density. While your teeth can’t create new enamel, minerals that are eroded by acids from plaque and acidic foods can be restored, or remineralized, with the calcium and phosphates in saliva.

  • Calcium

Strong teeth and bones need calcium. More than 99% of the calcium in our bodies is located in our teeth and bones. How to make sure we get enough?

Dairy products are the traditional answer. Several servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt each day supply most of our needs. If you can’t eat dairy, though, calcium is also found in other foods, such as salmon, sardines, many dark leafy vegetables, and fortified juices, tofu, and cereals.

  • Phosphorus

Calcium gets most of the attention when it comes to creating strong teeth and bones, but it’s not a solo act. We need phosphorus to make full use of the calcium in our diets.

Proteins like meat, fish, and poultry are good sources of phosphorus, as are beans, nuts, whole grains and dairy.

  • Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a diet essential because it enables us to absorb the calcium and phosphorus that keep teeth and bones strong.

Most dairy and many other foods are fortified with vitamin D, such as cow’s milk, soymilk, orange juice, and cereals. Egg yolks and fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and herring, are also a rich natural source of the vitamin.

Healthy Gums

Gum disease is more than just a nuisance. Left untreated, gingivitis (early gum disease) can become periodontitis (serious gum disease). Periodontitis can cause infection, loose teeth, and tooth and bone loss.

Brushing and flossing promote gum health and help prevent gum disease, but your diet plays an important role, too.  

  • Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for the health and healing of mucous membranes, including gum tissue and the soft membranes in the mouth.

You can get this vitamin directly from animal products such as dairy foods and meats, or it can be formed in the body from beta-carotenes. Think orange when you hit the produce aisle, because foods such as carrots, peppers, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta-carotenes.

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the so-called “essential nutrients.” These are the nutrients that are necessary for our bodies to function properly, and which can only be supplied in our diets. Vitamin C is vital for healthy gums and soft tissue—in fact, one sign that your diet is deficient in vitamin C is inflamed and bleeding gums.

Citrus fruits, those oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and all their cousins, are a wonderful source of vitamin C, but you have many other flavorful options. Fruits such as kiwis, mangos, papayas, and strawberries are rich in vitamin C. Step over to the vegetable aisle to load up on red peppers, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli—all of which contain more vitamin C per serving than a medium orange!

Fewer Cavities

Plaque thrives on a diet of sugar. Oral bacteria in plaque use the sugars in our food to produce acids. These acids erode enamel and eventually lead to cavities. Limiting your sugar consumption and choosing complex carbohydrates over simple carbs are two ways to reduce your risk of cavities.

  • Sugars

The usual suspects—candies, desserts, pastries, sodas—are sugar-filled items you’re familiar with. What might surprise you is the amount of sugar in sports drinks, fruit juices, flavored yogurts, breakfast cereals, and other standard grocery purchases. Checking labels for sugar content is a great way to cut down on unexpected sweeteners.

  • Carbs

The refined starches in white bread, white rice, potato chips, and other simpler carbohydrates quickly break down into sugars. This is the kind of nutrition only plaque appreciates.

Instead, fill your cart with complex carbohydrates, which contain important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Found in foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, and many vegetables, complex carbs break down slowly for longer-lasting energy.

Of course, these suggestions don’t cover everything on your healthy dental shopping list. We could add magnesium for bone density, vitamin B to prevent oral irritation and inflammation, vitamin K for bone strength, and more. To find out the best options for your healthiest smile, talk to Dr. K Cavallari or a member of our Virginia Beach, VA team about ideas for improving your daily diet.

Because besides leading to stronger teeth, healthier gums, and fewer cavities, a careful and conscious approach to your food choices has another wonderful benefit—a healthy dental diet is healthy for the rest of your body as well. Just something to be mindful of as we greet the new year!

Eat Well, Heal Better after Periodontal Surgery

December 23rd, 2020

You’ve got periodontal surgery at our Virginia Beach, VA office coming up on your calendar and you’re prepared. The freezer is stocked with frozen yogurt, the fridge is filled with pudding and applesauce, the cupboard has boxes of gelatin dessert just waiting to be mixed and chilled.

Good for you! Eating a soft, smooth diet is the best way to treat delicate tissue after surgery. Now, let’s look at a few ways to make that diet not only soothing, but healing.

  • Protein

Proteins are essential for all of our vital bodily functions. The protein in our diet is broken down into amino acids, which then combine with other amino acids to create the new protein building blocks our cells need to replace and repair damaged tissue. These proteins provide structure for cells in the skin, bone, and blood vessels as they recover. When you are healing, your body requires more protein than usual to help the process along.

Of course, right after periodontal surgery, you won’t be eating your regular protein sources of meats, seafood, beans, and nuts. But dairy foods such as yogurt and milk products are also rich in protein—and delicious in milkshakes and smoothies. You can also add a protein supplement if you will be eating soft foods for a while. Just remember, no straws!

  • Vitamin A

Vitamin A helps stimulate cell reproduction and the immune system, both important factors for quicker, safer healing. It also helps our bodies form and maintain bone tissue, mucous membranes, and soft tissue, all of which are involved in bone and gum recovery after surgery.

If you are wondering where to get more vitamin A, think green and orange. Spinach, kale, leaf lettuce and other leafy greens, mild peppers, carrots, cantaloupe, mango—all these foods keep you supplied with vitamin A. How to get those solid foods into your soft diet? Think smoothies. Adding some fresh ingredients to your blender will give you this important vitamin in an easy-to-drink form.

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C is vital for wound healing because it is essential in forming the protein collagen. Collagen provides both structure and support to our tissues, especially important as tissues heal.  

We usually associate vitamin C with citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and limes. But if you’re avoiding acidic foods because they might irritate delicate tissue, you can also find plenty of vitamin C in green vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale, or in fruits like strawberries, mangos, and papayas. Here’s where that blender comes in handy again!

  • Zinc

Zinc has been found to improve healing by promoting membrane repair, blood clotting, and skin cell recovery, and by helping to boost immunity. Too little zinc in the diet has been associated with slower wound healing, especially in the skin—and because our bodies don’t store zinc, it should be part of everyone’s regular diet.

Foods high in zinc include red meat and seafood, but since steak is off the menu for a while, where can you find another good source of zinc? Dairy products, again! Let your milkshake do double duty.

Of course, there is no one magic diet that brings instant recovery. But if you follow Dr. K Cavallari and our team’s advice, eat foods designed to soothe rather than irritate your recuperating tissue, and take advantage of the nutrients that encourage healing, you will be doing all you can to make your recovery speedy and healthy. Good for you!

Quit Smoking to Save Your Smile

December 16th, 2020

You have probably counted a hundred reasons to stop smoking. It’s unhealthy. It’s expensive. It annoys the people around you. You have to schedule your day around the next cigarette. But here’s reason number 101: Did you know that one of the many side effects of smoking is the damage it does to your smile?

Your Appearance

One of the most obvious results of smoking is the constant yellowing and discoloration of your teeth. Tobacco stains can take longer to remove with home brushing and whitening. And, while a professional cleaning and whitening will make a world of difference, all that good work is undone once you start smoking again.

More important, no smile looks its best with periodontal disease and tooth loss. Smoking has been linked to the presence of more harmful oral bacteria and higher occurrences of cavities and gingivitis (early gum disease). Periodontitis, or severe gum disease, is much more common among smokers. Tooth loss is also much more likely.

Healing after Dental Surgery

Smoking slows the healing process. It has been linked to a weaker immune system, so it’s harder to fight off an infection or to heal from one.  And because of the harmful effect of smoking on bone tissue, there is a higher failure rate for dental implants among smokers. Bone density can be so compromised that an implant is not even an option.

Healing after Extractions

If you have a tooth extracted, the formation of a blood clot at the site of the removal is essential to avoid a condition called dry socket. Dry socket can lead to pain, serious infection, and other complications. Luckily, this clot is resilient and pretty hard to dislodge—unless you apply suction such as sipping through a straw or drawing smoke from a cigarette.

Oral Cancer

Research has shown that smoking is the single most serious risk factor for oral cancer. The good news is that this risk is cut dramatically if you quit!

Let Dr. K Cavallari help you maintain your smile. We can offer many more reasons to give up the smoking habit, and we are happy to offer suggestions for quitting during your next visit to our Virginia Beach, VA office. We want to protect your smile and your health as well. It doesn’t really matter which number on the list finally leads you to quit—every number on that list is your lucky number!

Periodontics and Braces Treatment

December 9th, 2020

Most people think braces are all about their teeth. While it is true orthodontics is meant to move your teeth into proper position, there's more to it than that. To safely move your teeth with braces, you're going to need healthy and stable gums (or periodontium—the tissues that support your teeth).

For this reason it's critical to have your periodontal health evaluated prior to getting braces. This applies particularly to adults, since a 2013 study by the Center For Disease Control found that an estimated 47.2% of adults 30 years of age and older had periodontitis (gum disease). If you do have periodontitis, moving your teeth with braces will only make things worse.

Conversely, there is also risk for periodontal disease if you don't get orthodontic treatment. Malocclusion, as well as crooked and spaced teeth, can all contribute to periodontal disease. In these situations your teeth and gums are more difficult to clean and become breeding grounds for disease causing bacteria. Bad oral hygiene combined with these traits can greatly contribute to the development of periodontitis.

So, periodontics and braces have a tricky relationship. On one hand, you shouldn't get braces if you show signs of developing or have periodontitis, while on the other hand, braces can help prevent the possibility of developing periodontitis by correcting the bite and straightening the teeth.

If you are 30 years of age or older and are considering getting braces, it would be wise to first:

  • Let Dr. K Cavallari know about your desire to get braces
  • Get an exam to make sure you're in good periodontal health and a good candidate for braces
  • If you are a good candidate, keep an eye on your teeth and gums and get regular dental checkups throughout your entire course of treatment.

If you are in any doubt about the status of your teeth and gums, it's always best to get them checked before embarking with braces treatment. For more information or to have your periodontal health assessed for braces treatment, please contact our Virginia Beach, VA office.

(757) 412-0235