Warm Saltwater Rinse | Riverside, Ca Dentist

multiple smilesIt’s often the case that the most important aspects of your oral health start at home – brushing, and flossing, are at the top of the list. But there are other things you can do at home to help keep your mouth happy. One of the easiest and most effective treatments for dental pain – especially when recovering from professional dental procedures – is a warm saltwater rinse.

Rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater temporarily creates an environment in which bacteria have a harder time surviving. While it may not kill all bacteria, it will make it difficult for them to multiply, which will help your mouth in the longer term. The salt also promotes healing, so if you’ve recently had dental procedures or oral surgery, the saltwater rinse will assist your tissue in healing.

Making a saltwater rinse is easy – use ½ teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water, and rinse for approximately 30 seconds.

If you’ve recently had oral surgery, you can rinse every 2-3 hours for the first few days, and then 3-4 times per day for the next week. If you haven’t recently had surgery, you should consider a saltwater rinse no more than once a week – using saltwater rinses too often may cause long term negative effects on your enamel.

Brushing and flossing properly are always critical to long term dental health, but if you have a cut on your inner cheek, or if you’ve recently had dental surgery, a warm saltwater rinse may be a great way to help your mouth heal.

For more information call Dr. Gerald Middleton in Riverside, CA at 951-688-3442. Visit our website for special offers, updates and to make an appointment, www.gmdental.com.

Accepting patients from Riverside, Norco, Ontario,  Murrieta, Fontana and surrounding communities.

What to Expect During a Root Canal | Riverside, Ca Dentist

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To most patients the thought of needing a root canal is very stressful. With modern dentistry root canals are nothing to fear. Root canal procedures have the reputation of being painful. When in fact most patients report that the procedure itself is no more painful than having a filling placed.

So what exactly is involved in a root canal procedure? Well, a root canal is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or infected. It is performed when the nerve of the tooth becomes infected or the pulp becomes damaged. The nerve and pulp are removed, and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed.

Signs you may need root canal therapy include:

  • Severe toothache pain upon chewing or application of pressure
  • Prolonged sensitivity (pain) to hot or cold temperatures (after the heat or cold has been removed)
  • Discoloration (darkening) of the tooth
  • Swelling and tenderness in nearby gums
  • A persistent or recurring pimple on the gums

 

The first step in the procedure is to take an X-ray to see the shape of the root canals and determine if there are any signs of infection in the surrounding bone. Your dentist or endodontist will then use local anesthesia to numb the area near the tooth. Actually, anesthesia may not be necessary, since the nerve is dead, but most dentists still anesthetize the area to make the patient more relaxed and at ease.

An access hole will then be drilled into the tooth. The pulp, along with bacteria, the decayed nerve tissue, and related debris, is removed from the tooth. The cleaning-out process is accomplished using root canal files. A series of these files of increasing diameter are each subsequently placed into the access hole and worked down the full length of the tooth to scrape and scrub the sides of the root canals.

The root canal procedure should relieve the pain you feel. Until your root canal procedure is completely finished — that is, the permanent filling is in place and a crown, if needed, is in place — it’s wise to minimize chewing on the tooth under repair. This step will help avoid recontaminating the tooth’s interior and also may prevent a fragile tooth from breaking before the tooth can be fully restored.

For the first few days following the completion of treatment, the tooth may feel sensitive due to natural tissue inflammation, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. Most patients can return to their normal activities the next day.

As far as oral health care is concerned, brush and floss as you regularly would, and see your dentist at normally scheduled intervals. Because the final step of the root canal procedure is application of a restoration such as a crown.

Root canals are highly successful; the procedure has more than a 95% success rate. Many teeth fixed with root canal therapy can last a lifetime.

If you have tooth pain or believe you may need a root canal, contact Dr. Middleton today.

For more information call Dr. Gerald Middleton in Riverside, CA at 951-688-3442. Visit our website for special offers, updates and to make an appointment, www.gmdental.com.

Accepting patients from Riverside, Norco, Ontario,  Murrieta, Fontana and surrounding communities.

What is a Tooth | Riverside Cosmetic Dentist

186932212We all have them, but what IS a tooth? It’s probably not something you’ve ever really thought about. A tooth is actually a complicated structure. It’s made up of a lot more than you may think it is.

Humans have 32 teeth – hard, calcified white objects we use to chew, cut, crush, and swallow food.

The visible surface of the tooth is known as enamel. A hard, mineral surface, the enamel is typically light yellow to white in color, but is semi translucent, so the actual color of your tooth is determined by both the enamel and the underlying dentin. Made of a crystalized calcium phosphate known as hydroxyapatite, the enamel is both incredibly strong and incredibly brittle.

While enamel covers to outside of the tooth above the gum line, below the gum line the surface of the tooth is covered in a substance known as cementum. A yellowish substance, it contains less than half of the mineral content as enamel, making it much softer. The primary purpose of cementum is to provide a surface to allow the periodontal ligaments in the gums to hold onto the tooth.

Below the enamel and cementum lies the dentin. Dentin is a combination of mineralized hydroxyapatite, organic material and water, and is both much softer than enamel and much less brittle. However, it’s also more prone to decay, and severe cavities can cause significant dental problems if not treated rapidly.

Finally, within the dentin lies the tooth pulp. The pulp is soft tissue, filled with blood vessels and nerves that provide the tooth with oxygen, nutrients, and also the ability to transmit ‘senses’ such as temperature, pain, and pressure. The pulp also helps to form and repair dentin from within the tooth.

While most people will only see the enamel surface of their teeth, proper dental care will focus on maintaining each layer healthy – by protecting the enamel with proper brushing, and treating cavities formed by decay before they damage the dentin or pulp.

Proper oral hygiene is imperative to keeping your teeth for a lifetime.  If you’re concerned you may not be properly maintaining your teeth, Dr. Middleton is here to help you.

For more information call Dr. Gerald Middleton in Riverside, CA at 951-688-3442. Visit our website for special offers, updates and to make an appointment, www.gmdental.com.

Accepting patients from Riverside, Norco, Ontario,  Murrieta, Fontana and surrounding communities.

 

What is the Difference Between Gingivitis & Gum Disease? | Riverside Cosmetic Dentist

494183909Gingivitis is one of those words a patient absolutely dreads hearing come out of their dentists mouth. For one, you’ve essentially been found out: poor oral care habits and skipping out on regular dental visits. Two, it can be a little embarrassing.

We’ve all heard the word gingivitis, but what is it?

Gingivitis is inflammation of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth and is most commonly a result of poor dental hygiene. Gingivitis is a very common condition and varies widely in severity. It is characterized by red, swollen gums that bleed easily when teeth are brushed or flossed. Gingivitis is not the same thing as periodontitis, although sometimes a person may be affected by both. Gum disease is mostly caused by improper oral hygiene that allows bacteria in plaque and calculus to remain on the teeth and infect the gums.

But there are other factors that increase the risk of developing gingivitis. Some of the most common risk factors are as follows:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco prevents the gum tissue from being able to heal.
  • Crooked, rotated, or overlapping teeth create more areas for plaque and calculus to accumulate and are harder to keep clean.
  • Hormonal changes in puberty, pregnancy, and menopause typically correlate with a rise in gingivitis. The increase in hormones causes the blood vessels in the gums to be more susceptible to bacterial and chemical attack.
  • Cancer and cancer treatment can make a person more susceptible to infection and increase the risk of gum disease.
  • Stress impairs the body’s immune response to bacterial invasion.
  • Mouth breathing can be harsh on the gums when they aren’t protected by the lips, causing chronic irritation and inflammation.
  • Poor nutrition, such as a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates and low in water intake, will increase the formation of plaque. Also, a deficiency of important nutrients such as vitamin C will impair healing.
  • Diabetes mellitus impairs circulation and the gums ability to heal.
  • Medications such as anti-seizure medications promote gum disease(Source: medicinenet.com)

 

While gingivitis is inflammation of the gums around the teeth, periodontal disease occurs when the bone below the gums gets inflamed or infected.

Gingivitis forms when food particles mixes with saliva and bacteria-plaque forms that then sticks to the surfaces of teeth. If dental plaque and tartar aren’t removed by brushing with toothpaste and flossing, it can become mineralized and form tartar. Tartar is very hard and can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning. Which is why it is imperative to see your dentist for regular cleanings. Untreated tarter can lead to major and costly dental problems.

Plaque and tartar are filled with harmful bacteria, and if they aren’t removed from teeth, they will begin to irritate the gums and cause gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis will often extend from the gums to the bone and lead to periodontitis. When the underlying bone gets infected, it will start to recede away from the teeth and form deep gum pockets. These pockets collect plaque and bacteria as they are very difficult to keep clean, and more bone loss occurs. As periodontal disease progresses into later stages and more bone tissue is lost, the teeth may eventually become loose and fall out.

Dr. Middleton can help you keep these terrible dental afflictions at bay.

For more information call Dr. Gerald Middleton in Riverside, CA at 951-688-3442. Visit our website for special offers, updates and to make an appointment, www.gmdental.com.

Accepting patients from Riverside, Norco, Ontario,  Murrieta, Fontana and surrounding communities.

The Pro’s and Con’s of Coffee | Riverside, Ca Dentist

477787597Is coffee really bad for your teeth? Well, yes and no. Studies show we consume an average of 3 cups of any variety of coffee a day in the United States. That’s about 150 million Americans wondering if they’re compromising their teeth with every sip.

The con’s of coffee are the usual suspects, staining, coffee breath, etc. You know those stubborn brown stains that accumulate on the inside of a coffee mug? Those give you some idea of how coffee drinking can stain your teeth over time. Coffee stains appear to be even more persistent than tobacco stains, in fact. According to one study that compared the two types of stain, coffee-stained teeth were more resistant to toothbrushing and more likely to become discolored again following a bleach treatment.

In addition to being unsightly, teeth with heavy coffee stains tend to be sticky and apt to attract food particles and bacteria

  • Acids in coffee directly attack your tooth enamel. This leaves teeth vulnerable to cavities, as well as cracked and broken teeth.
  • Acids and bad bacteria feed off of each other. Bacteria left in your mouth love to feed off of the acids found in coffee. They multiply rapidly and become responsible for cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.
  • Coffee stains teeth. While this is no surprise, coffee is the leading contributor to stained or yellow teeth.

But what are the pro’s of coffee? A Boston University study found that chugging that daily cup of joe may have you spewing sour coffee breath, but it also might pack some sweet rewards, too. Research suggests that drinking coffee can help protect your teeth from periodontal disease, the inflammation of your gums and jawbone.

After studying more than 1,000 men for up to 30 years, the researchers found that those who drank one or more cups of coffee each day had fewer teeth with bone loss–the hallmark of periodontal disease which can lead to loosening and ultimately loss of your teeth. The researchers also found no evidence that even moderate or heavy coffee drinking was associated with any other markers of periodontal damage, such as bleeding of the gums or development of bacteria-collecting pockets around the teeth.

So, coffee will still stain your teeth but you don’t have to worry about it leading to any dental demise. Plus, it’s less acidic than many other common beverages, like fruit juices, sodas, and energy drinks. According to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition, all of those drinks–but not coffee–were shown to weaken teeth’s protective enamel.

For more information call Dr. Gerald Middleton in Riverside, CA at 951-688-3442. Visit our website for special offers, updates and to make an appointment, www.gmdental.com.

Accepting patients from Riverside, Norco, Ontario,  Murrieta, Fontana and surrounding communities.

Five Things That Can Be Damaging Your Teeth | Riverside, Ca Dentist

459953231Most of us are very busy people and we go about our days getting everything we need to accomplish all while not thinking about our oral health. But your oral health is a daily consideration. You may not even realize things you’re doing in your every day life may be effecting your teeth.

When it comes to your oral health and the well being of your teeth, there are the usual suspects to blame: soda, sugar, shoddy brushing. But you may be doing things in your every day routine that are adding stress to your teeth!

Here are five unexpected dental culprits—and the best ways to stop them.

CARDIO
Long cardio workouts may take a toll on your teeth, one study found. The researchers compared the oral health of endurance athletes with non-exercisers and found that the athletes were more likely to have tooth erosion, which is a gradual wearing away of enamel. And the more time they spent training per week, the greater their risk of cavities. That’s because exercise reduces your saliva, the researchers found. Saliva is filled with minerals that nurture your teeth and neutralize acids that cause wear and rot. On top of that, consuming sugary energy gels and acidic sports drinks during training can encourage tooth decay.
Your fix: Since you have less saliva during long training sessions, battle decay-causing bacteria and plaque by brushing before you exercise and rinsing your mouth with water after consuming anything sugary or acidic. Plus, chewing sugar-free gum when you work out can boost your saliva production!

WEIGHT LIFTING
It’s a natural tendency to clench your jaw when you strain to lift weights. It may even improve performance by increasing blood flow to parts of your brain associated with motor control. But all that pressure can wear down your teeth or even crack them, causing persistent pain in your jaw, he says.
Your fix: If you bite down hard when you exert yourself in the gym, consider wearing a mouthguard. Inexpensive “boil-and-bite” mouth guards are effective and easy to find at drugstores or sporting goods stores.  Or your dentist can make you a custom one.

MEDICATIONS
Hundreds of meds for allergies, depression, heart health, and blood pressure cause dry mouth. That may not sound like a major side effect, but it can wreak havoc on your teeth, since they need saliva to protect against acids that cause decay and erosion. When you don’t have an adequate saliva supply, your teeth can undergo catastrophic damage in a matter of months.
Your fix: Chewing on sugar-free gum and sucking on sugar-free hard candy throughout the day will help stimulate saliva production. Stay away from sugary and acidic foods that encourage decay and erosion.

HEARTBURN
Sure, the chest pain sucks, but did you know that acid reflux can do permanent damage to your teeth, too? The acid from your digestive system can wind up in your mouth, dissolving your enamel just like the acid from soda or sports drinks. This acid, however, can be even more potent.
Your fix: If your dentist finds erosion on the teeth located at the back of your mouth, acid reflux is most likely the culprit. Ask your physician how to tackle your heartburn.

MEAL-TIME BRUSHING
Brushing after eating acidic foods—like juice, fruit, sports drinks, red wine, and soda—can weaken enamel. That may lead to yellowing and greater odds of cracks and chips.
Your fix: Swish with water to rinse away the acid and wait 40 minutes for the calcium in your saliva to remineralize weakened areas. Then brush(Source: prevention.com).

For more information call Dr. Gerald Middleton in Riverside, CA at 951-688-3442. Visit our website for special offers, updates and to make an appointment, www.gmdental.com.

Accepting patients from Riverside, Norco, Ontario,  Murrieta, Fontana and surrounding communities.

Bad Breath Could Mean Big Problems! | Riverside, Ca Dentist

119504435Do you suspect you have bad breath? If so, it might be an indication of other problems and not just a lack of proper oral hygiene. With perpetual bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth may be a warning sign of gum (periodontal) disease. Gum disease is caused by the buildup of plaque on teeth. Bacteria cause the formation of toxins, which irritate the gums. If gum disease continues untreated, it can damage the gums and jawbone.

The medical condition dry mouth (xerostomia) also can cause bad breath. Saliva is necessary to moisten the mouth, neutralize acids produced by plaque, and wash away dead cells that accumulate on the tongue, gums, and cheeks. If not removed, these cells decompose and can cause bad breath. Dry mouth may be a side effect of various medications, salivary gland problems, or continuous breathing through the mouth.

Many other diseases and illnesses may cause bad breath. Here are some to be aware of: respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis, chronic sinus infections, postnasal drip, diabetes, chronic acid reflux, and liver or kidney problems.

Bad breath can be reduced or prevented if you:

  • Practice good oral hygiene. Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove food debris and plaque. Brush teeth after you eat (keep a toothbrush at work or school to brush after lunch). Don’t forget to brush the tongue, too. Replace your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months or after an illness. Use floss or an interdental cleaner to remove food particles and plaque between teeth once a day. Dentures should be removed at night and cleaned thoroughly before being placed in your mouth the next morning.
  • See your dentist regularly — at least twice a year. He or she will conduct an oral exam and professional teeth cleaning and will be able to detect and treat periodontal disease, dry mouth, or other problems that may be the cause of bad mouth odor.
  • Stop smoking and chewing tobacco-based products. Ask your dentist for tips on kicking the habit.
  • Drink lots of water. This will keep your mouth moist. Chewing gum (preferably sugarless) or sucking on candy (preferably sugarless) also stimulates the production of saliva, which helps wash away food particles and bacteria. Gums and mints containing xylitol are best.
  • Keep a log of the foods you eat. If you think they may be causing bad breath, bring the log to your dentist to review. Similarly, make a list of the medications you take. Some drugs may play a role in creating mouth odors(Source: WebMD).

In most cases, your dentist can treat the cause of bad breath. If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy and the odor is not of oral origin, you may be referred to your family doctor or to a specialist to determine the odor source and treatment plan. If the odor is due to gum disease, for example, your dentist can either treat the disease or refer you to a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in treating gum conditions.

For more information call Dr. Gerald Middleton in Riverside, CA at 951-688-3442. Visit our website for special offers, updates and to make an appointment, www.gmdental.com.

Accepting patients from Riverside, Norco, Ontario,  Murrieta, Fontana and surrounding communities.

Why do we use Toothpaste? | Riverside General Dentist

78652984Have you ever wondered why we use toothpaste? You already recognize the importance of looking after your teeth which includes brushing them twice a day. Brushing along with flossing will not only remove food debris and plaque but will also protect your teeth against tooth decay and gum disease. Toothpaste cleans the teeth, protects them against tooth decay, and keeps them looking healthy and attractive to look at as well. It also ensures that your breath is nice and fresh as well.

Brushing with toothpaste is important for many reasons:

1- Toothpaste and a correct brushing action work to remove plaque, a sticky, harmful film of bacteria that grows on your teeth that causes cavities, gum disease and eventual tooth loss if not controlled.

2- Toothpaste contains fluoride, which makes the entire tooth structure more resistant to decay and promotes remineralization, which aids in repairing early decay before the damage can even be seen.

3- Special ingredients in toothpaste help to clean and polish the teeth and remove stains over time.

4- Toothpastes help freshen breath and leave your mouth with a clean feeling.

Your toothpaste should contain fluoride, the brand you buy really does not matter, neither does whether or not it is in paste, gel or even powder form, or containing a certain flavor. All fluoride toothpastes work effectively to fight plaque and cavities and clean and polish tooth enamel. Your toothpaste brand should bear the ADA (American Dental Association) seal of approval on the container, which means that adequate evidence of safety and efficacy have been demonstrated in controlled, clinical trials.
 
If your teeth are hypersensitive to hot or cold, consider trying a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth. These desensitizing toothpastes, which contain strontium chloride or potassium nitrate, protect exposed dentin by blocking the tubes in the teeth that are connected to nerves. Toothpastes containing baking soda and/or hydrogen peroxide give the teeth and mouth a clean, fresh, pleasant feeling that can offer an incentive to brush more, but fluoride is the true active ingredient at work protecting your teeth. Some prefer a tartar-control toothpaste containing pyrophosphates to prevent the build-up on their teeth. New pastes offer advanced whitening formulas aimed at safely removing stains to make teeth brighter and shinier, although they can’t nearly match the effectiveness of a professional bleaching formula administered or prescribed by a dentist.

To make an appointment, please contact Dr. Gerald Middleton at (951) 688-3442 or visit our website: www.gmdental.com

Dr. Middleton welcomes patients from, San Bernardino, Redlands and Lake Elsinore.

Oral Health and Heart Health are Closely Linked

At Dr. Middleton’s Dental Office, we are always telling our patients how important it is to keep up with your oral health, because serious heart problems can occur if you develop periodontal disease or other oral health complications. Read on for some more information on how a healthy heart starts with a healthy mouth:

THURSDAY, March 7 (HealthDay News) — For adults, losing teeth is bad enough, but tooth loss is also associated with several risk factors for heart disease, a large international study suggests.

These heart disease-related risk factors include diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and smoking.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 16,000 people in 39 countries who provided information about their remaining number of teeth and the frequency of gum bleeds. About 40 percent of the participants had fewer than 15 teeth and 16 percent had no teeth, while 25 percent reported gum bleeds.

For every decrease in the number of teeth, there was an increase in the levels of a harmful enzyme that promotes inflammation and hardening of the arteries. The study authors also noted that along with fewer teeth came increases in other heart disease risk markers, including “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and higher blood sugar, blood pressure and waist size.

People with fewer teeth were also more likely to have diabetes, with the risk increasing 11 percent for every significant decrease in the number of teeth, the investigators found.

Being a current or former smoker was also linked to tooth loss, according to the study scheduled for presentation Saturday at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology (ACC), in San Francisco.

Gum bleeds were associated with higher levels of bad cholesterol and blood pressure.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The researchers added that it is still unclear what is behind the association between tooth loss, gum health and heart health.

“Whether periodontal disease actually causes coronary heart disease remains to be shown. It could be that the two conditions share common risk factors independently,” Dr. Ola Vedin, from the department of medical sciences at Uppsala University in Sweden, said in an ACC news release. “Those who believe that a causal relationship exists propose several theories, including systemic inflammation, the presence of bacteria in the blood from infected teeth and bacteria invading coronary plaques.”
WebMD News from HealthDay
By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

The full article can be found at: http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/news/20130307/tooth-loss-associated-with-higher-risk-for-heart-disease

Dr. Oz Is Worried About Your Teeth. Should You Worry Too?

Mercury fillings have been a popular and controversial subject within the field of dentistry for a number of years. At our office, we rarely use amalgam (mercury) fillings on our patients. This is mainly due to cosmetic appearance and patient choice. However, using amalgam is a viable alternative for some people, and it does not pose a health threat. We found this interesting article, which appeared in Forbes magazine earlier this month, criticizing Dr. Oz’s ignorance of the underlying science of amalgam in dental fillings:

Mehmet Oz hosts a popular TV show that reaches millions of people.  He offers a constant stream of medical advice, and he is popular because he makes his topics sound dramatic, or exciting, or surprising, or all three.

US actor Mehmet Oz poses during a photocall fo...Dr. Mehmet Oz at the 52nd Monte-Carlo Television Festival on June 13, 2012 in Monaco. (Image credit: AFP/Getty Images via @daylife)

Unfortunately, Dr. Oz sometimes demonstrates a poor understanding of science.  At least I hope so, because he promotes so many outrageous treatments, with such enthusiasm, that the only other explanation I can think of is that he is simply a fraud. I don’t think that’s true, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that when he makes a mistake, he is simply ignorant of the truth.  His latest startling revelation is that the metal fillings in your teeth are very, very bad for you.  Or are they?

Last week, Dr. Oz hosted a show called “Toxic Teeth: Are Mercury Fillings Making you Sick?  The show looked at silver amalgam fillings, which contain a small amount of mercury chemically bound within them.  Mercury is indeed a toxin.  Should you worry?

One problem with taking a skeptical look at a Dr. Oz show is that he packs each episode with scientific claims, coming at you thick and fast, and it would take hours to critique them all.  Instead, I’ll just pick a few, which illustrate Oz’s lack of concern for accuracy, and his apparent ignorance of the underlying science about dental fillings.

Dr. Oz opens his show with a dramatic claim about mercury:

“This thermometer contains mercury,” he says, holding up a very small thermometer. “If I were to drop it, we would have to evacuate this entire studio immediately!”

Now, this is complete nonsense.  If you drop a mercury thermometer, you should carefully clean up the mercury, which beads up into nice little silver-colored balls.  No one in the room is in danger, unless perhaps they try to inhale it.*

This opening salvo should set off anyone’s skeptical alarm bells.  Here’s a guy who doesn’t seem to mind exaggerating to make a point.  Why trust anything he says in the rest of the show?  I suspect, though, that after watching this episode, thousands of Oz’s loyal viewers raced to the phone and made appointments to have the silver fillings in their teeth removed.

Dr. Oz continues his introduction by explaining that mercury is contained in silver tooth fillings.  No one knew, he claims, that mercury vapor could be released from these fillings, but this news:

“sparked a firestorm 30 years ago [here the show cuts to a graphic of a fireball exploding] when major news reports brought to light the potential TOXICITY of mercury fillings.  … Now there’s mounting new evidence showing mercury is released when you eat, and even when you brush your teeth.”

Quick, run to the dentist!  Get this toxic mess out of my mouth!

But hang on a minute.  Why aren’t people dropping like flies from the fillings in their teeth?  With little effort, I determined that, contrary to Dr. Oz’s statements, nothing new has been discovered lately about silver tooth fillings.  I found studies going back to the 1970s that shown that we’ve long known for decades that mercury is released from these fillings. But Oz ignores all these.  He even announces, a few minutes into the show, that

“for the first time ever, I’m going to show you what happens when you brush your teeth with mercury fillings.”

No, this is not the “first time ever.”  As a scientist, I find it worrisome that Oz seems quite comfortable claiming, incorrectly, that he’s the first person ever to tell the world about this.

Perhaps the most outrageous – and unintentionally funny – segment of the show is the “demonstration,” where Oz introduces an Oz-certified expert on mercury vapor, David Wentz, who has a gizmo that looks like it was built by a sideshow huckster.  The device is a plexiglass box that looks like it was meant to handle biohazards, with black rubber gloves that let you manipulate its contents.  In the box: a set of fake teeth containing… silver fillings!  And a toothbrush!

As he walks over to the device, Oz says “I work with Dave Wentz and his Ph.D. dad.”  This goes by really fast, so you would be excused for not realizing that Dave Wentz himself doesn’t have a Ph.D., and for not knowing whether he has any credentials at all.  Dr. Oz conveniently omits the fact that Wentz and his father run a highly profitable nutritional supplements company, USANA http://www.usana.com/dotCom/about/index, which happens also to donate money to Oz’s nonprofit corporation, HealthCorps.  Hmm.

Dr. Oz then reaches into the box, and while the audience watches in hushed excitement, he brushes the teeth, right on top of those silver fillings!  Right on cue, Wentz proclaims that the mercury vapor reading hits 61 in just a few seconds.

“Anything over zero is toxic,” Wentz proclaims.  “And we’re at 61.”
“Oh my goodness, 61!” Dr. Oz exclaims.
“That mercury is coming off the fillings, into your mouth, going across the blood-brain barrier, into your brain,” says Wentz dramatically.

Wow.  I’ve been brushing my teeth (which have several fillings) for years.  How can I not be dead?

As Dr. Oz should know, “the dose makes the poison.”  Even water can kill you if you drink too much of it.   Wentz is clearly wrong to say that “anything over zero is toxic.”

How much mercury is safe, then?

Teeth, a poemTeeth, a poem (Photo credit: Shakespearesmonkey)

According to the EPA, 0.1 micrograms of mercury per kilogram of body weight per day is safe.  For an adult who weighs around 150 pounds, that’s about 7 micrograms.  A 6-ounce can of tuna has about 20 micrograms of mercury, about 3 times the safe amount per day.  Scientists do have real concerns that mercury in tuna and other fatty fish might present a health hazard.

Dr. Oz’s device seemed to show that 61 micrograms of mercury were released from brushing teeth, which would be about 9 times the exposure that is considered safe.  Is there really a risk here?

Well, no.  The EPA has found that “nearly all methylmercury exposures in the U.S. occur through eating fish and shellfish.”  (Admittedly, though, this is not mercury vapor.)  The precise question that Oz claims to be explaining “for the first time” has been examined in multiple studies, and the evidence is that silver fillings are harmless.  (See the FDA summary here.)

A thorough scientific review in 2004 concluded that:

“The current data are insufficient to support an association between mercury release from dental amalgam and the various complaints that have been attributed to this restoration material. … Individuals with dental amalgam-attributed complaints had neither elevated HgU nor increased prevalence of hypersensitivity to dental amalgam or mercury when compared with controls. The findings of these studies suggested that individuals with complaints self-attributed to dental amalgam should be screened for underlying dental, physical, and psychiatric conditions.”

So no, there’s no evidence that mercury from silver fillings causes any health problems.  None.

But what about that device on Dr. Oz’s show, which showed 61 micrograms being released in just a few seconds of brushing the teeth?  My conclusion is that the device in Dr. Oz’s studio was either wildly inaccurate or simply fraudulent.  The setup was almost a parody of what real scientific instruments look like, and nothing about it gave me any confidence that it was reliable.  I would suggest to Oz that before making a claim like this, he should ask rigorously trained scientists to make the measurements using properly calibrated equipment.  A TV studio is no substitute for a real lab.

But wait: Mehmet Oz is a Professor of Surgery at Columbia University – he must know his science!  Plus he has an M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, and he did his undergrad studies at Harvard.  By all appearances, he is a very smart guy.  If his show were about heart surgery – his specialty – it would no doubt be professional, accurate, and probably far too technical to attract an audience.

Here’s the rub: despite his credentials, Oz is not an expert on mercury amalgam fillings.  He probably could have read and understood the science, but he appears to be unaware, or too busy to  be bothered by, the many scientific studies on this subject. Had he done his homework, he might not have presented such a spectacularly overblown episode that seems intended to scare people into removing the silver fillings from their teeth.

So there’s no need to go out and get your silver fillings replaced.  It’s too bad that a highly educated surgeon like Mehmet Oz, with such a big audience, prefers to present wild exaggerations rather than telling people the truth.  Perhaps, though, the truth just isn’t that exciting.

*Note added on followup: Even swallowing is rarely harmful.  From J. Dodes: “Acute toxic exposures to  elemental mercury are rare but there have been cases of elemental mercury being accidentally released directly into the  bloodstream from broken rectal thermometers and when elemental mercury had been swallowed intentionally in an attempt at suicide.  In all these cases there was no long-term effects from the mercury.”  Dodes, JE.  The Amalgam Controversy:an evidence-based analysis.  JADA, 132:348-56, 2001.

The original article can be found at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevensalzberg/2013/04/08/dr-oz-takes-a-big-bite-of-pseudoscience/2/