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Smoking Teen

Smoking Alternatives: Helpful or Harmful?

In the 20th century, tobacco use killed more people than World War I and World War II combined. Smoking cigarettes not only stains your teeth and makes it harder to breathe, it can also lead to heart disease, lung cancer, pregnancy complications, erectile dysfunction, anxiety, poor vision and oral cancer. But most people already know about the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes and the addictive nature of nicotine, which is why the number of smokers has been decreasing steadily over time.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of 7 out of 10 current smokers in the US who say they’d like to quit altogether. And you’ve likely tried smoking alternatives that are advertised as healthier options. In this article, we will help you make a smart decision by discussing popular smoking alternatives and whether they are harmful or helpful.

E-Cigarettes / Vape Pens

Electronic Cigarettes & Vaporizers

Believe it or not, electronic cigarettes were first invented in the 1930s, but the modern version we know didn’t gain popularity until the 2000s. An e-cigarette (or electronic cigarette) is a battery-powered device that converts liquid nicotine into a mist, or vapor, that the user inhales. There’s no fire, no ash and no smoky smell. E-cigarettes do not contain many of the harmful chemicals in traditional cigarettes, like carbon monoxide or tar. E-cigarettes, vaporizers and vape pens have been advertised as more convenient, less addictive, healthier and more socially acceptable than paper cigarettes – but more and more research is proving these claims to be false. One 2016 report suggests that electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) were equally damaging—in some cases, more damaging—to mouth cells as tobacco smoke. E-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular with teenagers and college students, and there are non-nicotine versions of e-liquid (vape juice) available for purchase. But these products are still not regulated by the FDA and have not yet been researched enough to prove they are a safe alternative to smoking. Until we see some better evidence to support advertisers’ claims, our suggestion is to seek another stop-smoking aid.

Verdict: Harmful


Cigarette rolling machine, loose tobacco and rolled cigarettes

Rollies, Clove Cigarettes & Flavored Cigarillos

We’ve grouped these three types of cigarette alternatives together for the same reason – they are often misrepresented as a lighter, safer smoking experience as well as a healthier choice. Roll-your-own cigarettes (“rollies”) are often promoted as a more natural or organic alternative – and for some, a more authentic or cooler experience. Unfortunately “rollies” have seen a slight uptick in usage worldwide, and have actually have a higher risk of cancers of the larynx (voice box), esophagus (swallowing tube), mouth, and pharynx (throat) when compared with smokers of machine-made cigarettes – even if you use a filter.

Clove cigarettes (kreteks) and bidis are generally seen as more flavorful and contain ingredients not found in traditional cigarettes. People who smoke cloves sometimes think that they are less addictive or less hazardous than cigarettes, but studies show they have just as many negative effects as traditional cigarettes. Bidis are especially dangerous because it takes a deeper and more frequent inhale to keep them burning. Bidis often containing higher levels of tar, carbon monoxide and cigarettes and bidi smokers are at higher risk for heart attack, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and cancer. For all you Black & Mild or Swisher Sweet fans out there, you might be doing more harm than if you smoked cigarettes – putting you at risk for cancer, heart attack and respiratory diseases. Remember that cigars are not designed to be inhaled so when you choose to inhale cigar/cigarillo smoke, you might be doing even more damage to your lungs, brain and heart. If you’re looking to curb your habit, look elsewhere.

Verdict: Harmful

Hand holds smokeless tobacco product while other hand removes product with fingers

Smokeless Tobacco: Chew, Dip, Plug, Snuff & Snus

Smokeless tobacco comes in many different packages but for the most part, it is not a safe alternative to smoking. For example, one can of snuff contains the same amount of nicotine as 4 packs of cigarettes and dipping 8 to 10 times a day introduces as much nicotine into the body as smoking 30-40 cigarettes. And studies have shown that those who switch from cigarette smoking to chewing tobacco were more than 2.5 times as likely to develop cancer of the mouth or throat compared to those who quit smoking all together. If you’re trying to curb your habit or find a healthier alternative, smokeless tobacco is not the answer – because it still contains most of the chemicals in cigarettes that cause lung cancer and has even been tied to an increased risk of prostate cancer.

However, there is one exception and it comes in the form of a Swedish invention called “Snus.”  Snus is still highly addictive, but research shows that using snus to quit smoking has been proven to improve success rates by 50%. Also, in a large-scale study conducted in Australia, lifelong users of snus had a life expectancy comparable to those who quit tobacco all together. But it is important to note that this study was conducted in Sweden using the Swedish product, and American snus products are regulated differently. So it is possible that in the future, snus will become a helpful, recommended stop-smoking aid – for now, we remain skeptical of it being used in this way.

Verdict: Harmful

Smoking hookah with fruit head on dark background

Hookah or Shisha

Hookah (or Shisha, depending on your location) is a type of water pipe that is often smoked in social settings, at bars or parties. The tobacco is generally fruit-flavored, and its smoke is inhaled through long rubber hoses into a mouthpiece. Hookah smoke contains high levels of toxic compounds, including tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals. Hookah smoking delivers about the same amount of nicotine as cigarette smoking, and can even lead to dependence and increased smoking habits. If you’re smoking hookah in a public place, there is also a chance that the equipment has not been properly cleaned – so there is an increased risk of contracting infectious diseases there. Hookah can be a fun, once-in-a-while activity with friends, but it is not a safe alternative to smoking and it will not help you quit smoking cigarettes.

Verdict: Harmful

 

There are many reasons to quit smoking, and it’s never too late. Quitting today can help reduce your risk of lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and asthma – and it can even improve brain function. Studies have shown that quitting at around age 30 reduces the chance of dying from smoking-related diseases by more than 90%. If you quit at around age 50, you reduce the risk of dying prematurely by 50% compared with those who continue to smoke. Even those who quit at around age 60 or older live longer than those who continue to smoke.

At Mortenson Family Dental, we are committed not just to your oral health, but to helping you live a longer, happier and more rewarding life. If you are a smoker, talk to us at your next cleaning about quitting. We’d be happy to discuss safe alternatives, stop-smoking aids we recommend and how quitting smoking today will improve your oral health. We are always happy to provide an oral cancer screening for you, which will alert us to any warning signs that you might be at risk for oral cancer. Good luck on your journey to stop smoking! We’ll be right here cheering for you.

A young woman smiles; underneath is the Eagle U logo and the text "Enroll a Student Today"

Give the Gift of Eagle University this Christmas

Still trying to figure out what Christmas gift you’re getting your future Vice President, CEO, developer, policewoman or astronaut? Help them get a 7-year jump start on life by registering them for Eagle University 2017. At Eagle U, participants will define their goals and discover the tools to reach them. Participants will find mentors that give them inspiration, wisdom, and new ways to develop a direction in life and be successful.  They’ll also learn life lessons at the hands of those who have actually proven, by their performance, the success of the principles that they teach.

What does the Eagle represent?

The eagle has always symbolized independence, strength and focused direction. When you emerge from Eagle U, you’ll have the opportunity to be all of these things as you follow the systems you will be given. They are common sense systems, but not commonly practiced. To be extraordinary, you don’t do ordinary things that ordinary people do. At Eagle U, students will learn:

  • The formula for studying less and getting better grades
  • The secret to beating out the competition for the best scholarships and jobs
  • The 3 biggest career decisions — why most make them backwards and end up far from where they want to be
  • How to be a powerful communicator in person, in writing and on stage
  • First impressions — How to impress EVERY time in an interview, on a date or on any occasion
  • How to answer the toughest interview questions
  • Financial success – What to do today to be financially secure tomorrow
  • How to find quality mentors who will help you succeed in life
  • How to increase your confidence and self-esteem

Apply Now

The first session of 2017 Eagle University will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, on University of Louisville campus from June 26-30. If you’re ready to apply right now, you can fill out your registration by clicking here. If you’re an alum, be sure to log into your old account. If you don’t already have an account, you’ll need to select “New user sign-up”. For complete program details, here’s a convenient PDF that explains it all.

Financial Aid Options

If full registration isn’t possible for you and your family right now, Eagle U has financial aid options available! Scholarships are awarded based on merit, a recommendation letter and a student essay. Fill out your scholarship application form by clicking here. And if you are having trouble uploading the documents, you can send them to Maria@EagleUniversity.org. All scholarship applications must be received by December 31st, 2016.

The tooth fiary stands behind a table surrounded with school-age children and the candy they collected to donate

De Paul students overcome fire, help homeless

If you follow Mortenson Family Dental on Facebook or keep up with our blog, you already know that we love giving back to the communities we serve. In addition to the Mortenson Charitable Foundation, we love organizing events and promotions for good causes. One of our favorites is our Swap Your Sweets promotion, which collects candy for Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends care packages to troops abroad.

This last week, one of our team leaders sent out a heartwarming story about the 4th grade class at DePaul Elementary school — who not only overcame a school fire to swap their sweets, but pooled their resources to help Louisville’s homeless population and teach us all a lesson in compassion, kindness and the spirit of the holiday season. Her story is reprinted below, with names removed to preserve their privacy.

One of our young patients is a student at DePaul Elementary School around the corner from the Highlands office. She found out about our Swap Your Sweets program and told her teachers and class about it. It turns out that this 4th grade team selected a project this year to “Help Those Who Protect Us.” Our program fit right in. The entire class brought in and bagged their candy. They even recruited other kids in the school to do the same and parents brought in brand new bags of candy to share with the troops. I had organized with their teacher to come in and speak to the class with the assistance of one of our EDDAs who was graciously willing to play the part of “tooth fairy.”

The day before we were supposed to come in, the teacher called and said there was a fire at the school and we would have to postpone. Everyone was safe. The school was fine. But the candy did not survive and the kids were staying home from school for a couple days while classrooms were repaired.

Upon the kids’ return to school, they scurried to gather more candy. They really wanted to participate in our program. Parents and students of the school rallied and came up with another bounty of candy and homemade cards for our troops. We went to their classroom yesterday to deliver the gift cards and some dental goodies, talk to them about service in the community and, of course, dental health. It was simply delightful. The kids were confident, inquisitive and completely aware of how our project brings a smile to “Those Who Protect Us.” It doesn’t stop there. They have plans to take lunch to the fire fighters who helped save their school. AND they are gathering items for the homeless. During our presentation, it came up that they could combine their $5 gift cards from the Swap Your Sweets program and purchase items for the shelter. I was almost moved to tears.

One of our young patients brought us and her elementary school together and we were able to give them small means to contribute to a local shelter (don’t forget that lunch for the firefighters, too!). If this isn’t an example of community coming together to take care of each other, I don’t know what is.

We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves. Thank you, DePaul Elementary school students, for helping us all remember what it means to serve the community. We are so proud of you, and thankful for the kindness you showed.

Family having traditional holiday dinner with stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, vegetables pumpkin and pecan pie.

The 3 Best Thanksgiving Dishes for Your Teeth

As you sit down for your Thanksgiving meal this year, you might think about how it’s affecting the scale or your belt buckle — but what about your dental health? We’ve talked a lot about the link between dental health and overall health on our blog, so it’s no surprise that some foods are better for your teeth than others. Find out what’s inside some of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes and the positive effects they have on your teeth and gums.

Roasted turkey served on plate with a variety of vegetables, ready for dinner on Thanksgiving

Turkey

What’s inside: Protein, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorus, Potassium and B Vitamins

Effects on your teeth: The star of the whole meal is probably the best thing for you on the table. Turkey is low in fat and high in protein, which strengthens teeth and your immune system. The minerals found in turkey — iron and zinc — promote healthy mucosal tissues that act as a barrier between your gums and dangerous bacteria. Phosphorous is important to bone health because it maximizes the benefits of calcium. And B Vitamins not only give you a natural energy boost, but they can also help prevent periodontal disease and repair damaged gum tissue. In fact, one of the only downsides to turkey is that it gets caught in your teeth, so you might want to bring along a flossing pick to Grandma’s house this year.


Homemade Red Cranberry Sauce for the Holidays

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

What’s inside: Antioxidants, Vitamin C & Fiber

Effects on your teeth: Cranberries — like blueberries, kale and oatmeal — are often called a superfood because of their many health benefits. They are one of the most antioxidant-rich foods you can find, and antioxidants load your cells to protect you from disease. Cranberries are also rich in dietary fiber, which has been shown to reduce tooth decay, and Vitamin C. which strengthens your immune system. Most people go with canned cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving and we don’t blame you for saving some time, but unfortunately canned recipes are packed with sugar. Excessive sugar can damage your teeth enamel and lead to tooth decay, among other dental health problems. When you make your own cranberry sauce at home, you decide how much sugar goes in. So if you’re looking for a healthy alternative to canned cranberry sauce, check out this great recipe from Cookie and Kate.


Homemade Cooked Sweet Potato with Onions and Herbs

Yams or Sweet Potatoes

What’s inside: Vitamin C, Thiamine, Niacin, Vitamin A, Fiber & Potassium

Effects on your teeth: Yams and sweet potatoes are often interchangeable in recipes and can be prepared a lot of different ways on Thanksgiving — some of them more healthy than others. But at the heart of every yam or sweet potato dish is a vitamin-packed starch that is low in fat and high in nutritional value. Great at regulating blood sugar, their anti-inflammatory properties can help prevent periodontal disease. Healthy doses of Thiamine and Niacin in a balanced diet can decrease tooth decay. And Vitamin A promotes saliva production, which is crucial for cleaning away destructive bacteria and food particles from between teeth and gums. A lot of yam or sweet potato dishes are sweetened with sugar or marshmallows, but Thanksgiving is a time for a little rule-breaking — go ahead and splurge. Just remember to rinse your mouth with water any time you eat a sugary dish.


Happy Thanksgiving from our Family to yours!

hooded boxer with lights and gumshield

Difference Between Night Guards and Mouth Guards

We’ve heard a few names for the plastic thing people wear to protect their teeth during physical activities or sleep. If you or your children are involved in contact sports, or if you ever feel jaw pain especially after sleep, we’ll clear up the differences between night guards and mouth guards for you. And we’ll help you decide which one you need.

What is a Night Guard?

An occlusal splint is commonly called a dental guard, night guard or bite guard. It is used to protect your teeth while you sleep. Most dentists recommend night guards to patients who grind their teeth, which is often as a result of stress or anxiety. When someone habitually grinds his or her teeth, it is called bruxism, a very common condition that affects 10% of people and as many as 15% of children. Grinding your teeth can ruin enamel, increase tooth sensitivity and chip your teeth. Too much grinding and clenching of the jaw can result in a condition of the jaw called TMJ, which can sometimes require surgery.

Close-up shot of doctors hands in gloves holding silicone mouth guard. Teeth care

Do you or your children ever wake up with jaw pain or think you might be grinding your teeth? Schedule a consultation with your dentist to discuss getting a custom-fit night guard. In just one visit, we can evaluate your grinding habits and take an impression of your smile. Some of our offices can even make your night guard in their own lab! In about 1-2 weeks, you’ll have your night guard and be sleeping easier.

What is a Mouth Guard?

A mouth guard is a protective device for the mouth that covers the teeth and gums to prevent and reduce injury to the teeth, lips and gums. The American Dental Association recommends wearing a mouth guard for many sports played in the fall and winter:

  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Field Hockey
  • Gymnastics
  • Ice Hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Rugby
  • Volleyball
  • Boxing
  • Wrestling
  • Ultimate Frisbee

Custom mouth guards are recommended over store-bought, and do more than just protect your teeth. According to one study, “high school football players wearing store-bought mouth guards were more than twice as likely to suffer mild traumatic brain injuries than those wearing properly fitted, custom mouth guards.” Ask your dentist to make a dental impression for you, which will be sent off to a lab that produces mouth guards or made in one of our office’s labs.

Photo sports mouth guard and medical capacitor on a white background

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