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Planning Your Vegetarian Diet with Your Oral Health in Mind

June 25th, 2020

If you’ve been following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you know that there’s much more to living a healthy life than simply avoiding meat products. Making sure your diet includes enough protein, as well as any nutrients that are primarily available in animal products, takes planning, and there’s no one-menu-fits-all solution.

Why? Because there’s no one menu that will suit all vegetarians. Specific vegetarian diets can allow for many different options:

  • Vegan—a plant-based diet which excludes meat, fish, dairy, and egg products
  • Ovo-vegetarian—includes eggs as a dietary option, but no dairy
  • Lacto-vegetarian— includes dairy as a dietary option, but no eggs
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian—a meat-free diet which allows both dairy products and eggs

If you are a pescatarian, who eats fish on occasion, or a flexitarian, who sometimes includes meat in a meal, your menu options are even broader.

So let’s look at the big picture—a healthy vegetarian diet is really more concerned with the foods you do eat for nutrition rather than the foods you don’t. You can create a meal plan rich in all your essential nutrients with a little research, no matter which type of vegetarian diet is your go-to choice.

And while you’re constructing your ideal menu guidelines, don’t forget about your dental nutrition!

In terms of keeping your teeth and gums their healthiest, what important vitamins and minerals are often missing from vegetarian and vegan diets? Let’s look at three of them.

  • Calcium

Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and tooth enamel. Without enough calcium, a weakened jawbone leads to loose, and even lost, teeth. The acids in our food and the acids created by oral bacteria also weaken the minerals in enamel, including calcium. These weak spots can eventually become cavities. A diet rich in calcium not only supports the bones holding our teeth, but can even help repair, or remineralize, enamel which has been weakened by acidic erosion.

For vegetarians who include dairy in their diets, dairy products are a great way to include calcium. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are traditional and rich sources of this mineral.

For vegans, it’s a bit more challenging, but still doable! Non-dairy foods providing calcium include dark green vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach), certain types of tofu, and fortified cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks.

  • Vitamin D

Now you’re ready to put that calcium to work by making sure you have enough vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D not only helps keep our bones healthy, it also enables our bodies to absorb calcium. Bonus—it’s been linked to better gum health in several studies.

So how to get more vitamin D? If you eat dairy, most dairy products have been fortified with vitamin D. If eggs are a part of your diet, egg yolks are a great source. Pescatarians can enjoy the benefits of vitamin D from fatty fish such as tuna and salmon.

Because we get most of our vitamin D from sun exposure or foods derived from animals, plant-based foods are not a practical way to obtain the vitamin D you need. But, just as non-vegetarians can get plentiful vitamin D from fortified dairy products, vegans also have options. Try adding cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks fortified with this essential nutrient to your diet, or take a vegan vitamin D supplement.

  • Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy red blood cells, nerve cell development, brain function, and DNA production. (This is why it’s especially important for pregnant and nursing women.) Vitamin B12 can also impact your oral health. A B12 deficiency can cause a swollen, sore, or inflamed tongue, loss of taste, and gum, tongue, and mouth ulcers.

Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is reliably found only in animal foods and nutritional yeasts. If you would prefer an egg-free and dairy-free diet, look to B12 supplements or B12-fortified cereals, plant-based milks, energy bars, and other vegan options. This is a good subject to discuss with your physician, because even supplements and fortified foods might not provide enough B12.

In fact, Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow can be vital resources when you’re planning your healthiest vegetarian diet. The next time you visit our Santa Cruz, Aptos, or Watsonville, CA office, ask for recommendations for supplements if you’re concerned that diet alone can’t provide for all of your nutrition essentials. Finally, care should be taken to ensure that, even with supplements, you get the proper amount of the vitamins and minerals you need.

As a vegetarian, you are used to the concept of care. Whether it was concern for nutrition, the planet, the animal world, or another reason that drew you to a vegetarian diet, be sure to care for your body as well as your dietary choices. Careful planning can ensure a diet which supports not only your general health, but your oral health, for a lifetime of nourishing—and well-nourished—smiles.

Taking Charge of Your Dental Health

June 4th, 2020

Now that you’re a teenager, you have a lot more responsibility and independence. Choosing high school classes and electives. Getting a driver’s license. Landing your first job. And those new responsibilities extend to your dental health as well!

  • Braces

If you’ve just gotten braces, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. Learning how to brush and floss effectively, attaching rubber bands several times a day, keeping track of your hours if you’re wearing clear aligners—it can seem like a lot. But you can do it! With time and practice, caring for your braces will become just another part of your daily routine. Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow and our team are here to make sure you have all the information and tools you need to succeed. The most important thing to remember is that the better you follow our instructions, the quicker and more effective your orthodontic treatment will be.

  • Retainers

If you’ve successfully completed your orthodontic treatment, dealing with your retainer should be a piece of cake! We will give you clear instructions on how long each day you should wear your retainer. Sticking to this schedule is really important--if you don’t wear the appliance as directed, you can undo some of the progress you’ve worked so hard to make. And when you’re not wearing your retainer, be sure it has a safe life outside your mouth. Keep it in a protective case, and keep it someplace where the puppy/the washing machine/the cafeteria trash bin won’t find it.

  • Mouthguards

If you have a mouthguard for sports or athletic activities, wear it! Whether you have an over-the-counter device or a custom fabricated guard, it won’t do you any good hiding in your locker. A mouthguard cuts down on tooth and facial injuries caused by falls, physical contact, or other accidents that might happen in your active life. And if you wear braces, ask about a mouthguard designed to fit around them. These custom devices protect your braces and your mouth.

Finally, remember that sticking with your dental routine—two minutes of brushing morning and night and thorough flossing each day—will keep your gums and teeth healthy throughout your teen years. And, if you have any questions about your dental health in general, or a specific dental concern, give our Santa Cruz, Aptos, or Watsonville, CA office a call! We’re here to work with you for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

Adults and Braces: Not just for kids anymore

May 28th, 2020

Just hearing the word “braces” can take many of us back to junior high — that painful era when we wore unattractive glasses, endured unflattering haircuts, and carried a mouthful of braces to complete the awkward adolescent look. Despite the common assumption that braces are for kids, more and more adults are choosing to pursue orthodontics to correct their smiles.

Braces for Adults

Perhaps you never had braces as a kid and you are embarrassed by your crooked teeth. Or you went through a round of braces a decade ago and stopped wearing your retainer, which allowed your teeth to shift. Whatever your personal history, wearing braces in adulthood is an excellent way to create the straight, beautiful smile you deserve.

What are my options?

With recent advances in orthodontic medicine, there are numerous options for adults who need braces. The basic option is traditional metal braces. These are best for individuals who have severely crooked teeth or a significant bite problem, or require other major orthodontic changes. Metal braces are typically the least expensive option. The greatest drawback to wearing metal braces as an adult is aesthetics. Many people find them unattractive and distracting.

If you are a professional who is worried about your personal appearance, clear ceramic braces may be a better choice. Clear braces are capable of handling very crooked teeth or bite issues, but they cost more than metal braces. You also have to be careful about smoking or drinking red wine, soda, and other dark beverages while wearing clear braces. These items may stain the adhesive that binds the brackets to your teeth.

Another popular option for adults who need braces is a clear aligner treatment, such as Invisalign®. This system works in a different way from traditional braces by applying a series of clear, retainer-like aligners. The series is custom made for your teeth, which makes this option more expensive than either metal or ceramic braces. In general, the Invisalign process takes anywhere from three to 18 months to complete. You should be aware that Invisalign is not as effective as traditional braces in treating bite problems, teeth that are lower or higher than others, or severely overcrowded teeth.

Although you may be nervous about the prospect of getting braces as an adult, you should not let your fears stop you from talking with Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow. A consultation at our Santa Cruz, Aptos, or Watsonville, CA office will address your concerns and provide information about the best course of treatment for you. No matter what your personal situation, adult braces can be a great way to boost your confidence and create the smile you’ve always dreamed of.

Rubber Band Horoscopes: What your color says about you

May 14th, 2020

One exciting part about wearing braces from Donald P. Connolly, DDS is getting to choose the colors of your rubber bands. Orthodontists place elastic bands, or ligatures, over each bracket to secure the archwire in place. These rubber bands may be individual or connected, depending on your mouth’s needs. From Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow, you have the option of choosing the color of your elastics, which are changed about once every month at every visit. Our offices keep a color wheel handy to help you choose which ones suit you best!

Children and teens often enjoy picking different colors each month to express their creativity and coordinate their braces with outfits. Decorating your mouth with your favorite colors is fun for kids and takes some of the stress out of wearing braces. Adults who wish for subtlety have color options that blend in with the metal brackets and archwire. Common choices for adults include silver, clear, and gray tones.

Common Color Combinations for Rubber Bands

With individual ligatures for each bracket, you may choose different color combinations for special events. You can have alternating colors or place an entire rainbow over your teeth. Here are a few options to consider:

  • School spirit colors
  • Favorite sports team colors
  • Patriotic colors
  • Holiday themes

Some patients choose only one color to match their mood, personality, or favorite outfits. The palette of choices allows you to make bold statements with your braces or go for subtler tones that blend in with the metal structures. Keep in mind that bright colors make your teeth look whiter, while lighter shades, such as yellow and white, may cause your teeth to appear less bright.

What Your Rubber Band Color Says About You

  • Red tones indicate that you are ready for action and take charge of your life with aggressive, forward-thinking steps.
  • Blue tones are calm and relaxing. You are conservative and exhibit integrity when dealing with situations.
  • Green tones represent growth and balance. You are level-headed and look for opportunities to grow emotionally and spiritually.
  • Purple tones attract creative energies. You like to have fun and use your imagination in every aspect of your life.
  • Orange tones indicate that you are optimistic and thrive in social situations where communication is open.
  • Pink is a romantic color that represents a caring personality. You also enjoy having fun with silly games and endless laughter.
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