My dentist told me to back off of booze so I won’t need dental implants


My dentist told me to back off of booze. I have some perio issues with loose teeth and she said that my drinking habits can be a contributing factor. Yes she told, not asked me to cut back on booze. I was almost going to be insulted but I figured if she is right, she is saving me money on dentures or dental implants. Then the thought occurred to me that she might have just been getting to try me to stop drinking so much because a few times she asked me if she smelled alcohol on my breath. Does alcohol have anything to do with gum disease? Thanks. Ron


Ron – Your dentist is looking out for your best interests. A recent (September 2015) article in the Journal of Periodontology Online, Alcohol Consumption and Periodontitis: Quantification of Periodontal Pathogens and Cytokines, reports the findings in a study that included non-drinkers, occasional drinkers, and regular drinkers.

Among regular drinkers, there were more instances of sensitive gums that bleed easily, and the need for periodontal (gum) disease care. Another symptom of periodontal disease is that gums start to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets between the gums and teeth. Even regular drinkers without periodontal disease exhibited deeper pockets than occasional drinkers and non-drinkers.

Why the difference between regular drinkers and occasional or non-drinkers? Alcohol consumption dries the mouth. A dry mouth contributes to plaque buildup, which inflames the gum tissue. Sensitive, inflamed gums bleed, and if left untreated, can separate from the teeth and in time result in full-blown gum disease.

If gums don’t properly adhere to your teeth, the teeth lack support and can loosen. Left untreated, loose teeth will eventually fall out, and yes, some form of tooth replacement, perhaps dental implants, will be recommended.

If you are a regular alcohol drinker, your dentist’s recommendation is correct. Consuming less alcohol can improve the situation.

It’s important for all patients to speak openly about their drinking habits with their dentist. This will help your dentist correctly advise you and assist you with preventive dental care and help you avoid the need for tooth replacement.

This post is sponsored by Lowell dentist Dr. Michael Szarek.

Why do my dental cleanings always hurt so bad and make my gums bleed?


I brush my teeth twice a day and I floss every night. My gums are healthy and I don’t have gum disease BUT with EVERY dental cleaning (I go twice a year) there is lots of pain and blood. Why? Is the hygienist too aggressive? That is what I am starting to believe. Thanks Vicki B.

Vicki – If your teeth and gums are healthy, and you experience pain and bleeding during dental cleanings, it is likely that your dental hygienist is cleaning your teeth too aggressively.

We suggest that you speak with her about your concerns and ask that your teeth be cleaned gently. Your request should be met with a positive response. If you continue to receive harsh dental cleanings, you can request the services of another hygienist in the office. You can also speak with your dentist about the issue. If the problem persists, you may have to find another dental practice with gentle hygienists to care for your needs.

This post is sponsored by Lowell, MA dentist Dr. Michael Szarek.

What can people with lactose intolerance eat or drink for healthy teeth?


Calcium is vital for strong bones and teeth. In fact, 99% of your body’s calcium is stored in your bones and teeth to support their function and structure. When calcium intake is low, bones and teeth weaken and lose density. Deficiency of this nutrient promotes tooth decay.

Milk and dairy products made from milk provide a good source of calcium. But many people—both adults and children are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance affects an estimates 30 to 50 million American adults. What can you do to ensure you get enough calcium to keep your teeth healthy?


  • Check with your medical doctor to confirm that it’s okay for you to take calcium supplements. Let your doctor know about any herbal supplements or prescription medication you take. Note that some experts suggest that children who are lactose intolerant receive their intake from calcium-rich foods. Consult with your child’s pediatrician before giving him or her calcium supplements.
  • Eat foods that are rich in calcium, including green leafy vegetables (e.g., Chinese cabbage, kale, and broccoli), orange juice, soya products, tofu, legumes, nuts, fish, and other calcium-fortified foods.

If you need to improve your calcium intake, supplement it through diet, and speak with your medical doctor for suggestions. If you think insufficient calcium intake is affecting your teeth, speak with your dentist. He or she will have suggestions on how to protect your teeth.

This post is sponsored by Lowell dentist Dr. Michael Szarek.

Why are my teeth so sensitive?


Tooth sensitivity is common. It affects some 40 million people in the United States. Sensitivity occurs when nerves in the inner pulp of your teeth are irritated. Worn tooth enamel or receding gums can cause sensitivity—particularly when hot or cold foods or drinks touch your teeth.

Contributing factors

Receding gums and damaged tooth enamel can cause sensitivity. Aggressive tooth brushing, hormonal changes, aging, cracked or decaying teeth, periodontal (gum) disease, and certain medical conditions can cause gum recession. Excessive consumption of acidic foods and drinks, as well as acid reflex and regular regurgitation of food associated with eating disorders can damage tooth enamel.

Treatment for sensitive teeth

  • At home care – Desensitizing toothpaste, such as Sensodyne®, contains ingredients that block sensation from traveling from the surface of the tooth to the nerve. You will need to use the toothpaste several times before you begin to feel relief. Avoid hard-bristle toothbrushes and aggressive brushing. Some whitening toothpastes and tartar-control toothpaste cause sensitivity. Some patients find when they stop using these toothpastes, their sensitivity is reduced.
  • Fluoride treatments or filling cavities – Your dentist may suggest fluoride treatment or other desensitizing agents to provide relief. Cavities may need to be filled with dental composite, or porcelain inlays or onlays. The cause of sensitivity will be identified before treatment is recommended.
  • Gum grafting – If your gums have receded, tissue grafting may be recommended. Tissue from the roof of your mouth or donor tissue can be used to cover exposed tooth roots and reduce your symptoms.
  • Periodontal treatment – When gum disease is the culprit, it needs professional attention from a dentist. Plaque around the teeth, and root surfaces will be smoothed. This process is referred to as scaling and root planing. You will be reminded of the importance of brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing daily. Flossing is critical in preventing plaque buildup on your teeth.

Don’t guess about the reason that your teeth are sensitive. Schedule an appointment with your dentist for an examination. Before the appointment, pay attention to the circumstances surrounding your periods of sensitivity. Your description will help the dentist provide correct diagnosis and treatment.

This post is sponsored by Lowell, MA dentist Dr. Michael Szarek.

How meth affects oral health


According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health more than a million Americans abuse methamphetamine in a single year. The destructive physical effects of meth are devastating to teeth and gums.

Photo courtesy of American Dental Association

Meth causes vomiting, which creates acid in the mouth; diarrhea, which dehydrates the body; and craving for sugar and junk food, which promotes further acid in the mouth. All of these factors contribute to a dry mouth, rob teeth of nutrients, and make the mouth a breeding ground for bacteria, plaque, and rapid tooth decay.

Some reports also attribute tooth decay to corrosion caused by chemicals in the drug. When ingested, meth causes blood vessels to shrink, which decreases the blood supply in your mouth. The result is oral tissue that decays. Jawbone and gum tissue become too weak to support your teeth.

As teeth rot and gum tissue and bone are destroyed, tooth loss is rampant. The picture on this page shows how devastating meth use can be. The degree of tooth loss does not necessarily coincide with how long a person has been using meth. In as few as four months, some users have teeth that have rotted to the roots.

The picture on this page shows how damaging meth can be on teeth. While meth is still in use, teeth can be minimally protected with fluoride treatments. Patients should be encouraged to drink lots of water. But most importantly, professionally help is needed to help control the addiction.

If a meth patient recovers, a skilled cosmetic dentist can make recommendations to prove natural-looking restorations for the patient’s teeth. Depending on the condition of the teeth, dental crowns or dental implants can be used to restore them. An attractive smile can go a long way to make the patient feel renewed.

This post is sponsored by Lowell, MA accredited cosmetic dentist Dr. Michael Szarek.