Monthly Archives: October 2016

All About Toothpaste

Buying a new tube of toothpaste can be a daunting task. With so many different formulas on the market, you may often find yourself standing in the drugstore trying to decide between an enticing vanilla-latte-flavoured variety and a tube with super-duper whitening power. What to choose? According to Dr. Euan Swan, spokesperson for the Canadian Dental Association (CDA), you don’t have to worry too much-most toothpaste formulas on the drugstore shelf will help protect your pearly whites.

“If you choose a product that you like the taste of so much that it encourages you to brush,” Swan says, “then it might be fair to say that any number of products in the marketplace will do the job for you.” After all, good oral hygiene goes far beyond the kind of toothpaste you select-proper diet, frequent brushing and flossing, and regular trips to the dentist all play an important role in maintaining your thousand-watt smile. However, we all need to decide on toothpaste at some point. Here’s some information on common label language to help you spend less time in the oral-care aisle and more time brushing.

Cavity-Fighting Toothpaste
All toothpastes fight cavities because they help to remove plaque when used correctly, says Dr. Hardy Limeback, head of Preventive Dentistry at the University of Toronto. But one thing to consider is that many toothpastes on the market today contain fluoride, which has been proven to protect tooth enamel from decay.

“Most people, if not all, can benefit from using a fluoridated toothpaste,” says Swan. The use of fluoride in oral hygiene is endorsed by over 90 national health organizations, including the CDA and Health Canada. Swan recommends that, at bare minimum, adults should look for toothpaste that contains this ingredient.

And when it comes to your kids, fluoride is important too-just make sure to keep an eye on things. As excessive swallowing of toothpaste by young children may result in dental fluorosis, a health condition caused by an overdose of fluoride, children under six years of age should be supervised during brushing and only use a small amount (e.g., a pea-size portion) of toothpaste. Children under three years of age should have their teeth brushed by an adult using only a smear of toothpaste. Talk to your dentist if you have any concerns about your kids’ toothpaste.

Whitening Toothpaste
Toothpastes that claim to whiten your teeth will help combat staining, but they won’t give you the same results as dental-office treatments or at-home whitening kits, both of which contain peroxide. “The whitening that a toothpaste does is principally cleaning the surface of the tooth to remove stains and to make the tooth whiter,” says Swan. Though some whitening toothpastes do contain a very low level of peroxide, most use an abrasive agent to shine up your pearly whites. If you feel you need help in removing surface discolouration on your teeth, you may want to consider a whitening toothpaste, but keep in mind that this product isn’t for everyone. “People with irritable bowel syndrome should stay away from abrasives,” says Limeback.

Antibacterial Toothpaste
These toothpastes contain a common antibacterial agent called triclosan, and claim to protect gums from bacterial infections like gingivitis. If you have a history of gingivitis, it may be a good choice for you, says Swan, and according to the CDA, triclosan is a useful ingredient in oral hygiene. However, keep in mind that its efficacy is still questioned by some experts. Consult your dentist on whether a toothpaste containing triclosan is right for you.

Natural Toothpaste
Toothpastes claiming to be all-natural can be found in most health food stores as well as mainstream drugstores. These formulations are often fluoride-free and use ingredients such as myrrh, peppermint oil and aloe to clean teeth and freshen the mouth. Though natural pastes can be pricier than the big-name brands, they may be a good choice for younger brushers or people with chemical sensitivities. “Natural toothpastes can be effective and can be safe to swallow,” says Limeback.

Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth
If your mouth aches at the mere thought of an ice cream cone, you might want to consider using toothpaste for sensitive teeth. Many major brands make at least one sensitive-teeth formula, and according to Swan, most of them work in much the same way. “With sensitive teeth,” he says, “the gums have receded slightly, exposing the root. There is no enamel on the root so it can be stimulated by sweets or temperature changes, and that can affect the nerve inside the tooth. Toothpastes for sensitive teeth have the ability to block that stimulus from going through the root surface.”

The Canadian Dental Association’s Seal of Recognition
The CDA Seal of Recognition program is voluntary and not all toothpaste manufacturers go through the process of obtaining one. To get CDA approval for a particular formula, a manufacturer will submit data that proves that the toothpaste will perform as expected. “Looking for the seal is helpful to consumers, as it provides them with an increased level of confidence in their product selection,” says Swan. But remember that as the program is not mandatory for all manufacturers and the CDA does not perform its own product testing, toothpastes that do not bear the seal may perform just as well as those that do.

Should You Know About Breast Cancer

Keep in mind that screening guidelines are for healthy adults. People with risk factors, such as a family history of cancer or ongoing exposure to potential carcinogens, may need to be tested more frequently.
Breast Self-Examination
What it is. Using your fingers, check for lumps, swellings, nipple discharge, skin irritation or dimpling, and other irregularities, and do a visual check of your breasts in the mirror. If you notice anything unusual, consult your doctor as soon as possible for evaluation.

How often. Begin practicing breast self-examination every month by the age of 20 and continue it throughout your life, even during pregnancy and after menopause.

Why it’s important. By examining your breasts regularly, you’ll become familiar with what your breast tissue normally feels like. This may help you detect any abnormality at a very early stage.

Points to remember. Perform this five-minute test during the week after menstruation, so that breasts aren’t swollen or tender. Postmenopausal women should choose a date that’s easy to remember each month.

Clinical Breast Examination
What it is. A physician or other trained health-care professional performs a physical breast exam that is very similar to the procedures used for breast self-examination.

How often. Women ages 20 to 39 should have one every three years; women 40 and over should have the exam annually.

Why it’s important. Most cancer experts advocate clinical breast examination, breast self-examination, and mammography together to give you the best chance of detecting breast cancer in an early stage.

Points to remember. Schedule the test for the week after your period, when breasts are least tender and when abnormalities are easiest to detect.

What it is. Each breast is compressed between two plastic plates, then X-rayed to detect cancer or other problems.

How often. All cancer experts agree women should have mammograms on a regular basis (every one to two years) when they’re in their 40s. However, many recommend that starting at age 40, women should have a mammogram every year. Cancer specialists suggest that women who may be at increased risk for breast cancer should consider mammograms at an earlier age.

Why it’s important. Mammography can detect cancer before a lump becomes large enough to feel. It can also help identify other breast problems.

Points to remember: For the most accurate results, schedule the test for the week after your period. Don’t wear body lotion, powder, perfume, antiperspirant, or jewelry on the day of the test.

All About Coffee

We all love our cup of java, but the jury’s still out whether coffee is healthy or harmful. Here’s what recent research has found about the potential perks (and pitfalls) of the mighty roasted bean.

Every other week, a new study is released that either demonizes or eulogizes coffee. Are there grounds for concern under the aromatic froth?

The Health Benefits of Coffee

Diabetes: A study of 14,000 people in Finland (the world’s greatest per-capita consumer of coffee) found that women who drank three to four cups a day cut their risk of developing diabetes by 29 per cent. For men, it was 27 per cent. Researchers aren’t sure why, but suspect that the antioxidants in coffee help deliver insulin to the body’s tissues.

Cancer: In Japan, a study of 90,000 people revealed those who drank coffee every day for ten years were half as likely to get liver cancer. Meanwhile, German scientists have identified an active compound in coffee called methylpyridinium that boosts enzymes thought to prevent colon cancer.

Parkinson’s Disease: Researchers in Hawaii monitored the health of more than 8,000 Japanese-American men for 30 years and discovered that those who drank a cup of coffee a day had less than half the incidence of Parkinson’s disease. A possible clue as to why: caffeine promotes the release of dopamine, a substance involved with movement and usually depleted in Parkinson’s sufferers.

Gallstones: A US study of 46,000 men who drank two to three cups of coffee a day over a ten-year period revealed they had a 40 percent lower risk of developing gallstones. Researchers believe it is because caffeine stimulates the gall bladder, flushing out substances that could turn into gallstones.

The Potentially Harmful Effects of Coffee

Heart Attack and Stroke: There’s hot debate on whether drinking coffee is a cardiac risk. A Greek study of more than 3,000 people found coffee drinkers had higher levels of inflammatory substances (which have been associated with increased rates of stroke and heart attack) in their blood than non-drinkers. But Harvard researchers looking at the health of coffee drinkers over 20 years could not pinpoint any extra coronary problems. Nevertheless, a study of 2028 Costa Ricans found those with a gene variant that processes caffeine four times slower than average, and who also drank two to three cups of coffee a day, upped their heart-attack risk by 36 per cent. As this group metabolises caffeine slower, it remains in the body for longer-possibly pushing up blood pressure.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Finnish study of 19,000 people revealed those who drank four or more cups of coffee a day were twice as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers believe some as-yet-unidentified ingredient (particularly in unfiltered coffee) could trigger the disease.

Osteoporosis: A Californian study of 980 post-menopausal women found that those who drank two cups of coffee a day suffered a greater loss in bone density than those who didn’t. How come? Because caffeine acts as a diuretic, increasing the amount of calcium excreted in urine.

So… Is Coffee Healthy or Harmful?

For most of us, the humble cup of coffee is simply a harmless and enjoyable way to kick-start the day or give us an excuse for some time out. No more, no less. However, it is important to remember that different people exhibit different tolerance levels to caffeine-it is, after all, a drug.

So, while a mid-morning cappuccino will give one person a pleasant buzz, it could make another person edgy and irritable. To play it safe, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Whatever your choice-espresso or latte-keep a watch on your consumption for the sake of both your short-term and long-term health.