Posts for: July, 2014
We’ve all heard about potentially negative health effects from the sugar that’s added to many of our favorite foods. So these days, lots of us are trying to cut down on our consumption of sugar — not only to lose weight, but also to help prevent maladies like diabetes and heart disease. We can’t help noticing those pastel-colored packets — pink, yellow and blue — on the rack of our favorite coffee shop. But now we’re wondering: Are those sugar substitutes a good alternative to natural sugar? And which one should we choose?
Artificial sweeteners have been around for decades. Six different types (including the ones in the colorful packets) are currently approved as safe by the Food and Drug Administration; a couple of older ones (notably cyclamates) have been banned for many years. In addition to those zero-calorie sugar substitutes, low-calorie sweeteners called sugar alcohols (for example, mannitol and xylitol) are often used as food ingredients. So what’s the difference between them — and which one is best?
That’s not so easy to answer. If you have a rare genetic condition called phenylketonuria, you should avoid aspartame (the blue packet), because your body can’t process the substance. Otherwise, the choice may come down to a matter of taste. Even though they are FDA-approved, some controversy (both fact-based and far-fetched) remains about the long-term safety of sugar substitutes, and their usefulness in preventing obesity and other diseases.
Yet it’s clear that for some people, the consequences of consuming too much sugar could be much worse. So if you’re at risk for diabetes or certain other diseases, sugar substitutes can be an important tool in maintaining a healthier diet. They also have another health benefit: sugar substitutes don’t cause cavities. Further, some sugar alcohols (xylitol in particular) have the property of stimulating saliva flow, and have been shown to actually impede the formation of cavities. Oral health is an important (if sometimes overlooked) component of your general well-being, and several studies have pointed to a link between oral and systemic diseases — for example, diabetes and heart disease.
As with so many aspects of our health, there seems to be no “magic bullet” to cure all our diet-related problems. But used in moderation, artificial sweeteners can be a valuable part of the effort to improve our overall health and well-being. For more information on this topic, see the Dear Doctor article “Artificial Sweeteners.”
Not long ago, Jane Fonda gave a British interviewer a clue as to how she manages to look so young at her advanced age. During the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, the septuagenarian actress and fitness guru said to a journalist from the London-based Daily Mail, “See these teeth? They cost $55,000. It was teeth or a new car — and I opted for the teeth.”
We think she made the right choice — though she might have overpaid just a tad. Most people don't have that kind of cash to spend on either a car or new teeth. But luckily, you can get either for a lot less — particularly the teeth!
The truth is, at a reasonable cost, cosmetic dentistry really can make you look a lot younger while giving your self-esteem a tremendous boost. It's an investment in both your emotional and oral health as we will never implement a smile makeover without first making sure we've addressed any underlying dental disease. Best of all, it doesn't have to cost anywhere near what you'd pay for the latest-model Jaguar, the price tag of Fonda's smile notwithstanding. Here is a list of the more common cosmetic dental techniques used to enhance a person's smile:
- Whitening — a peroxide-based bleach is applied directly to the teeth to remove minor staining and discoloration.
- Bonding — an acrylic material is applied to a tooth, colored and shaped to match the person's other teeth. Primarily used for chipped, broken or decayed teeth.
- Enamel Shaping — the removal of very tiny amounts of enamel, the tooth's outer layer, for a more pleasing tooth shape.
- Veneers — a thin shell of custom-designed tooth-colored material, usually porcelain, affixed to the front surface of the teeth.
- Crowns and Bridgework — a technique that covers heavily damaged teeth or replaces missing teeth by capping them, or using capped teeth to support one or more false teeth.
- Dental Implants — a small titanium post is surgically implanted in the jawbone to replace the root-part of a missing tooth. A lifelike crown is attached to the implant above the gum line and is the only part of the whole tooth restoration that is visible in the mouth.
- Gum Contouring — a minor surgical procedure altering the position of the gum tissue to improve the look and regularity of the gum line around the teeth.
If you'd like more information on cosmetic dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment. To learn more, please read the Dear Doctor magazine articles, “Beautiful Smiles by Design” and “The impact of a Smile Makeover.”