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Thursday, June 30, 2022
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Daniel L. Kohn, D.D.S., P.C., has a prominent dental practice in family and cosmetic dentistry. The practice is located in New Milford.

Dr. Kohn graduated from Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine. He completed a post-medical residency in a hospital and furthered his education at New York University College of Dentistry, specializing in cosmetic dentistry. Dr Kohn has 24 years of expertise in the field of general and cosmetic dentistry. His motto is “Commitment to Excellence.”

Dr. Kohn graciously agreed to sit down with me and discuss the connection between nutrition and dental health.

Jenn: What is the connection between oral health and nutrition?

Dr. Kohn: Oral health has everything to do with nutrition. For example, the body uses calcium and phosphorus to produce a crystalline calcium phosphate compound that makes up the hard tooth enamel and protects the inner part of the teeth. Protein from the diet helps to support periodontal structure needed for good dental health.

So it is important to consume a diet that includes lean meat, poultry, fish, milk and eggs. These are protein sources and also contain calcium and phosphorus.

Speaking of important nutrients, fluoride is absent from New Jersey water and should be supplemented via diet, toothpastes, rinses or fluoride treatment. Fluoride is a nutrient essential to the formation of teeth and bones, and helps protect against tooth demineralization.

Speaking of fluoride, studies have indicated that fluoride has potential as a therapy for osteoporosis once bone has been lost. It’s been demonstrated to stimulate bone formation.

It is a misconception that teeth are bones because they both contain calcium and other shared minerals. Teeth are an “ectoderm organ” like hair, skin, sweat glands and salivary glands. Teeth are the hardest part of the human body, consisting of a calcified tissue called dentine, which is covered by the enamel. Bone contains collagen, a living, growing tissue that gives bones their flexible framework and ability to withstand pressure. If a bone fractures, it will heal, unlike a broken tooth.

What part of the mouth is most affected by what we eat and drink?

All parts of the mouth are affected by foods and fluids consumed. The top of the mouth, the palate, often gets a lot of bacteria because the tongue rests on it. The tongue has bacteria on it from interacting with food and fluids.

So brushing teeth, tongue and gums including the palate is a good practice to help reduce bacteria in the mouth.

Absolutely. Good oral hygiene is always important for oral health. Rinsing the mouth after eating is also helpful since it’s not always possible to brush after a meal or snack. By rinsing the mouth, you reduce sugars, acids and bacteria that can adversely affect oral health. I rinse a lot after eating for that reason.

What are foods and drinks that should be avoided for oral health?

High sugar candy, especially sticky candy like “gummies.”

Can you clarify how dietary sugar breaks down teeth?

Plaque is a sticky film that is made up of saliva and leftover food particles and contains bacteria. Sugary foods from our diet combine with those bacteria in the plaque to produce acid. This acid slowly dissolves the tooth enamel, creating holes or cavities in the teeth.

What is the connection between pH of foods and tooth /oral health?

Acidic foods such as citrus fruits and soda can lead to demineralization or erosion of tooth enamel. The erosion causes tooth sensitivity and decay.

What can be done to restore enamel?

Once the natural enamel is lost it cannot be replaced. There is research looking into stem cells. Stem cells can make anything; therefore, in theory, if a tooth is lost, stem cells can trigger regeneration. If a tooth is rotten, instead of repairing it, remove it and treat it with stem cells … perhaps one day! There are new products being tested to determine if they can help protect and reserve enamel.

How can enamel be protected?

A way to protect enamel is by maximizing saliva production. Drinking adequate water helps. There are toothpastes designed to help maximize saliva such as those designed for dry mouth.

Are there foods that discolor teeth?

Red wine, coffee and tea. Also, smoking discolors teeth.

How can you brighten teeth?

Hydrogen peroxide is a substance used to clean, brighten teeth and prevent gum damage. It is an acid but the extent of acidity depends on concentration and the temperature of a solution. Baking soda is also a brightening substance and can be used as an ingredient in toothpastes and rinses. It’s an alkaline product, and should be used in moderation. ALWAYS ask your dentist before trying anything new. Baking soda has an abrasive composition which can wear down tooth enamel, causing sensitivity and dental cavities. There is a product called Hello Charcoal that has good reviews for brightening teeth. Today, there are sealing cement products that protect and strengthen teeth, for example, while going through orthodontic treatment. This is good because many people who have braces do not floss or brush well enough to clean teeth and keep them healthy and white.

What is your opinion regarding gum chewing?

No sugared gum, but sugar-free gum is OK, because it helps stimulate saliva. Saliva washes away bacteria in the mouth and protects enamel. If a person has dry mouth, it helps to increase fluid intake, so chew sugar free gum and suck on sugar free candy to stimulate saliva production.

How can a mouth or gum infection cause serious health risks, even hospitalization?

A gum or mouth infection can travel to other parts of the body via blood. An example of this is when a gum infection is not treated, the bacteria from that infection can travel to the heart and cause a heart infection. A person might be required to have both medical and dental clearance to have a medical procedure done. A medical procedure may have to be delayed until a dental or oral disease is resolved.

What are medical conditions that can make a person more prone to dental disease?

Hormonal changes in pregnancy can negatively impact plaque and cause issues with oral health. Breathing out of the mouth and snoring can cause oral health issues. Medical conditions such as diabetes, stroke and yeast infections, Alzheimer’s disease and autoimmune diseases can lead to dental problems. Any condition that causes or interferes with adequate saliva production can lead to oral health disease, as saliva protects enamel by washing away bacteria, acids and sugars from our diet.

Can medications impact dental health?

Cancer treatments including radiation and chemotherapy may cause changes in the lining of the mouth and the salivary glands. This can upset the healthy balance of bacteria which may lead to mouth sores, infections and tooth decay. Medications such as antidepressants, analgesics, anti-anxiety, anti-diarrheal, antiemetics, antihistamines, anti-Parkinson’s and antiepileptic can adversely affect saliva production leading to dry mouth syndrome. There are prescription toothpastes and mouthwashes that stimulate saliva production, as well as over the counter artificial saliva products.

Any advice for our readers about how to prevent tooth and gum disease and have a wonderful smile?

Eat a healthy diet. Have professional dental cleaning twice a year or more if you have a medical condition or take medications that can adversely affect saliva and enamel. For those 65+ have dental cleanings three times yearly. Brush teeth regularly with a SOFT toothbrush. Invest in an electric toothbrush as these are gentle on enamel. Some products have water pics as part of the package. Water pics are almost as good as flossing. FLOSS, FLOSS, FLOSS—I can’t say it enough!

Daniel Kohn D.D.S., P.C. can be reached at 201-261-4860. The office is located at 769 New Milford, New Jersey, 07646. For more information, visit www.danielkohndds.com

Yours in good health,

Jenn

Nutrition Counseling and Personal Training: www.nu-transform.com

718-644-1387

Give us a call today!

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