Better Health & Living


Banish Bad Breath

While no one ever dies from bad breath, it sure can kill a relationship. Here are two kitchen-cabinet remedies to fix a sour mouth...

Suck on a piece of cinnamon bark to sweeten your breath. Cinnamon bark comes in stick or quill form and is sold in jars in the spice section of your market or loose at some specialty-food shops. Besides fixing occasional bad breath, cinnamon sticks can also satisfy the craving for a sweet treat or a cigarette.

Here's another way to make yourself kissable—gingerly chew on a whole clove (gingerly because cloves are strong and spiky). This is an ancient breath freshener that also can help remove the cravings for a cookie or a smoke.

Say Cheese!

!Here is a tasty way to help fight cavities: Eat a little cube of cheddar, Monterey Jack or Swiss cheese right after eating sugary, cavity-causing foods. Cheese helps reduce bacterial acid production, which causes decay. Peanuts also help prevent tooth decay if you know when to eat them. Instead of munching on them as an appetizer to hold you over till dinner, try eating the inexpensive peanut (which is technically a legume…but don't tell the kids that) at the end of a meal.

Wrinkle Repair without Surgery

Some wrinkles bring character and wisdom to our faces, some…well... If you don't love those wrinkles that can look like whiskers around your eyes, and you don't want to splurge on plastic surgery, here's what to do: With your fingertips, apply two or three drops of castor oil (or Emu oil ) on the delicate area around the eyes to reduce eye wrinkles. Do this every night just before you go to bed, and remove any residue in the morning with your usual face wash. You should see fewer lines in about a month or so (after which you can oil up just a few nights a week). Castor oil is a natural emollient that will make your skin soft and supple.

Clothespin Trick to Calm You Down-Natural Cures

If you're feeling anxious and need to relax, and you have some clothespins lying around (the kind that pinch real tight), here’s what to do: Grab five clothespins, and clip one to the tip of each finger of your left hand, right at the start of the fingernails. Keep them there for seven minutes. Then put those clothespins on the fingers of your right hand for another seven minutes. Pressure exerted on these nerve endings is known to relax the entire nervous system.

Do this clothespin bit first thing in the morning if you wake up feeling tense and before, during or right after any particularly nerve-racking situation (job interview...difficult relatives coming...skydiving).

HPV AND Oral Cancer -A Growing Problem

There is a growing body of research that shows an increasing incidence of human papillomavirus-associated cancer in the region of the oropharynx. The oropharynx includes the middle region of the throat, including the tonsils and base of the tongue. Actor Michael Douglas has revealed that the cause of his bout with throat cancer was directly related to HPV. And this problem is affecting younger people as well!

Although the primary risk factors for head and neck cancers remain tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption, HPV infection is now associated with some 10,000 cases of oropharyngeal cancer diagnosed each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In April 2012, the CDC reported that oropharyngeal cancer is the second most diagnosed of cancers associated with HPV. HPV is commonly transmitted through sexual contact.

Not all types of HPV cause cancer, but 40 known strains of HPV can be transmitted through sexual contact.

According to the CDC, cancers of the head and neck are mostly caused by tobacco and alcohol, but recent studies show that about 60–70 percent of cancers of the oropharynx may be linked to HPV. Many of these may be caused by a combination of tobacco, alcohol, and HPV. Regular dental check-ups that include an examination of the entire head and neck can be beneficial in identifying cancerous and pre-cancerous signs and symptoms.

In its Statement on Human Papillomavirus and Squamous Cell Cancers of the Oropharynx, the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs noted that the FDA approved two HPV vaccines for the prevention of HPV-associated cancers of the cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal mucosa; however, the vaccines may also be effective in the prevention of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers. More studies are needed to determine if vaccination aids in the prevention of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers. The ADA will continue to provide guidance to the dental profession and public about HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer.

Talk to your dentist or physician if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • persistent sore throat
  • difficulty swallowing
  • hoarseness
  • ear pain
  • enlarged lymph nodes

The following federal agencies can provide more information about HPV infection:

Look Younger With a Smile

The second week of August is National Smile Week, so smile as much as you can! Not only will you feel good, you’ll look younger. Really! A German study showed that when participants were shown pictures of people smiling, they underestimated the ages of the people in the photos by two years, on average. Need more reasons? Other studies have shown that smiling makes you more attractive, helps reduce stress and, as you’ve read in a previous Daily Burst, a smile actually can trigger feelings of happiness. One easy way to keep a smile on your lips is to take a silly picture of your kid, pet or significant other and use that as the wallpaper on your phone. That way, every time you pull out your phone, there’s a great reason to smile right in the palm of your hand. Reprinted from Bottom Line Publications " Daily Burst of Energy".

Treat Your Feet

When was the last time you exercised your feet? Just like the rest of your body, your feet need a little attention! And once you start exercising them, they’ll feel so great that you’ll wonder why you never thought of it before. Plus, stronger feet mean better balance and less risk for injury. So let’s start treating our feet!

First, get a sock or a golf ball and put in on the floor in front of you. Then pick it up with your toes, hold it for 10 seconds and drop it. Repeat with the other foot. Do three to five repetitions with each foot. Next, lift your foot a few inches off the ground and write the alphabet in the air using your big toe and ankle...repeat with the other foot. And when you’re done with that, give yourself a little foot massage. Use your thumb to rub the center of the foot just below the ball of the foot. In addition to feeling great, this is an acupressure point that has an energizing effect. Rub each foot like this for 30 seconds, and you’ll be amazed at how good your feet feel!

Kissing and Other Surprising Causes of Cavities

Four out of five people think that sugar causes cavities, but that’s not true. The real culprits are bacteria in the mouth that feed on sugar and other carbs, then release acids that dissolve tooth enamel, weakening and eroding it to the point where cavities can form.

Certain behaviors—including some that are sure to surprise you, such as kissing!—increase your risk for dental decay. Matthew J. Messina, DDS, a national spokesperson for the American Dental Association and a dentist in private practice in Fairview Park, Ohio, explained how to guard against startling causes of cavities, including…

French kissing. Smooching can transfer bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans from your sweetheart’s mouth to yours—and vice versa. When those bacteria produce acids, cavity risk increases.

Prevention: You and your partner must practice good oral hygiene to protect each other. This means brushing twice each day with a tooth-strengthening fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily. It’s also smart to brush the surface of your tongue once a day. “You can use a toothbrush. Just stick out your tongue and hold the tip with your nonbrushing hand, then scrape the tongue’s surface lightly,” Dr. Messina said. Also ask your dentist whether an antibacterial mouthwash would be beneficial for you. If you and your partner follow these steps, the bacteria levels in your mouths should be low enough that tongue-touching kisses won’t increase your cavity risk.

What if your honey does not practice good oral hygiene? Give your partner a new toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Lovingly suggest that a trip to the dentist and improved oral hygiene could help banish bad breath and other turnoffs, making make him or her more kissable. Dr. Messina did not recommend scare tactics, such as showing your partner a disgusting close-up image of bacteria eating away at dirty teeth—but you can explain that poor oral health may be linked to heart disease and other health problems.

Sipping sweet drinks. The sugar in soda, energy drinks and sports drinks is bad enough because it feeds those acid-producing bacteria. This problem is compounded, however, because these beverages also contain acids (such as citric, carbonic, malic and/or phosphoric acid) that skew the acid/alkaline balance inside the mouth.

Normally the mouth has a neutral pH of 7.0. Tooth dentin (the root and inside part of the tooth) starts to dissolve at a pH of 6.5, while enamel starts to dissolve at a pH of 5.5. Regular and diet soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks and citrus juices have a pH of 2.3 to 4.0—levels that can dissolve rust, Dr. Messina said. Sipping such beverages is especially damaging because it prolongs the “acid bath” that your teeth must soak in.

Prevention: Drink water instead. Or if you can’t resist the allure of a sweet beverage, drink it more quickly rather than sipping…or at least use a straw to help keep the fluid away from your teeth. When you’re done with your drink, immediately rinse your mouth with water. Don't brush right away, though—the acid leaves enamel soft and vulnerable. Wait 30 minutes for the enamel to harden up before you brush, Dr. Messina advised. (Watch this video, and you’ll never have a sweet drink again.)

Too-vigorous tooth-brushing. Forceful brushing causes gums to recede, exposing part of the roots of the teeth. The roots are covered with cementum, which is softer than enamel and thus more vulnerable to decay (not to mention more sensitive to pain). Older adults are particularly prone to cavities at the gum line.

Prevention: Use a soft toothbrush to gently clean all the surfaces of the teeth. At the gum line especially, think of using those bristles to massage, not to scrub, Dr. Messina suggested. Many people brush improperly, so watch this video to learn the right way to brush, especially in hard-to-reach spots.

Using mouth-drying drugs. Saliva is a natural buffer against cavities because it helps neutralize acids and washes food particles away from teeth. More than 400 prescription and over-the-counter medications can reduce saliva production, leaving you with a dry, cavity-prone mouth. These include certain drugs that treat depression, high blood pressure, diarrhea and urinary incontinence, as well chemotherapy drugs, antihistamines and decongestants.

Prevention: Chew sugarless gum sweetened with xylitol to stimulate saliva flow, and drink plenty of water to keep your mouth hydrated. Don’t smoke! Along with all its other catastrophic health effects, smoking dries out your mouth. Also, tell your dentist about all prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements you take and whether you experience dry mouth. Together, your dentist and doctor may be able to find alternative treatments that do not have this side effect.

Ignoring old fillings. Dental fillings can weaken, loosen or crack over time, creating tiny crevices in which acid-producing bacteria can build up. Yet it is difficult for the average person to tell whether there is a problem with an old filling that is starting to fail, Dr. Messina said.

Prevention: Have your teeth professionally examined at least twice a year—so worn-out fillings can be replaced before bacteria have a chance to make your old cavities even worse.

Source: Matthew J. Messina, DDS, national spokesperson, American Dental Association, private practitioner, Fairview Park, Ohio, and visiting faculty member, Pankey Institute, Key Biscayne, Florida.

Why Your Dentist Should Know About the Supplements You Take

You’re health-savvy enough to know that it’s important to tell your doctor about any dietary or herbal supplements you take—because some supplements can cause big problems in people who take certain medications, and vice versa.

But do you also tell your dentist about all the supplements you take? You should…for the exact same reason. After all, oral-health-care providers—dentists, periodontists, orthodontists, endodontists and oral surgeons—all may prescribe or administer medications before, during and after dental procedures.

And certain supplements are especially likely to cause problems if combined with the particular types of medications dental patients most often are given. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to avoid this, a new study suggests.


The study that caught my eye was led by Mark Donaldson, PharmD, a clinical professor at the University of Montana’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy in Missoula. He reviewed various drug-interaction databases looking for evidence of interactions between supplements and drugs that are commonly used in dental practice, so I called him for more details. Here’s what he discovered about…

Ginkgo biloba and evening primrose. These herbs can reduce your blood’s ability to clot, possibly leading to excessive bleeding during and/or after your dental procedure—particularly if you also take another anticoagulant, such as aspirin oribuprofen (Advil).

Recommended: Ginkgo’s half-life (the time it takes for the substance's concentration in your body to be reduced by half) is about seven hours, and it takes about four half-lives for 90% of the drug to be eliminated from your system—so you should stop taking ginkgo at least 28 hours before a dental appointment to reduce your risk for excessive bleeding. Evening primrose doesn’t linger in the body quite as long, so stopping it 24 hours before your appointment should give enough time to clear it from your body.

St. John’s wort. The most potential interactions are found with this herb, which often is used to help reduce anxiety, ease depression or aid sleep. St. John’s wort can increase your sensitivity to sunlight, potentially leading to severe sunburn—and its likelihood of doing so is increased when it is combined with other drugs that are frequently administered or recommended by dentists. These include ibuprofen…the antibiotics azithromycin, doxycycline and tetracycline…and the antihistaminediphenhydramine (Benadryl), given in the event of an allergic reaction or simply during the allergy season.

St. John’s wort also can interfere with the metabolism of antianxiety benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam(Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan)…sedatives such as zaleplon (Sonata) and zolpidem (Ambien)…the antibiotics clarithromycin,clindamycin, erythromycin, doxycycline and tetracycline…and the anti-inflammatory drugs prednisone and dexamethasone(Decadron). All these drugs can be rendered less effective when combined with St. John’s wort.

Finally, narcotics such as codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin) can become even more intoxicating when taken with St. John’s wort. This can lead to sleepiness, lethargy and dizziness in some patients, greatly reducing their ability to function normally for the rest of the day or even longer, Dr. Donaldson cautioned.

Best: The half-life of St. John’s wort is up to 25 hours, so discontinue it four days before your dental appointment. Unlike with antidepressants, which must be tapered off gradually, there is no risk in abruptly stopping St. John's wort because the herb’s long half-life basically makes it “self-tapering,” Dr. Donaldson said.

Valerian. This herb has mild sedative effects—and that’s where the real problems can occur. Dentists may prescribe benzodiazepine drugs to help anxious patients relax in the chair…or they may prescribe strong painkillers containing codeine for after a procedure. “Any time you use something that depresses the central nervous system in combination with another drug that does the same, they are going to have an additive effect. And if the two substances work by different mechanisms, they could produce a synergistic effect, so that the end result is even greater than the sum of the substances’ individual effects,” Dr. Donaldson said. For some patients, this can lead to significant sleepiness, lethargy and dizziness that can persist into the next day.

Important: Valerian use should be stopped at least 24 hours before your dental appointment.

Calcium and magnesium. Certain antibiotics commonly used in dentistry, particularly doxycycline and tetracycline, bind to these minerals—which means that the antibiotic won’t be properly absorbed, compromising your ability to fight off infection.

What to do: If you supplement with either or both of these minerals and your dentist prescribes antibiotics, allow at least two hours between the time you take the drug and the time you take the supplement. Remember that these minerals often are found in dairy products, multivitamins and antacids, so the same guidelines would apply, Dr. Donaldson noted.

Fish oil or another omega-3–rich oil. These very popular supplements weren’t included in the review, so I asked Dr. Donaldson if there were any concerns. He said, “One potential issue is that fish oil might interfere with the absorption of drugs. However, since none of the drugs commonly used in dentistry that we reviewed are particularly fat-soluble, the fish oil should not markedly increase or decrease the effectiveness of those drugs. However, high doses of fish oil can have anticlotting effects, so there could be a problem with bleeding, particularly if the patient also is taking aspirin.”

What to do: “If you normally take more than three grams a day of omega-3–rich oil, consider reducing your daily dose to three grams at least 24 hours ahead of your dental appointment. The day after your appointment, you can return to your usual higher dose,” Dr. Donaldson said.


Certain medications used by dentists have better safety profiles than others in the same class, so if your dentist is unsure about a potential interaction, it’s best to opt for the drug with the least chance of becoming half of a bad combination, Dr. Donaldson said. Talk to your dentist about the options for…

Pain relief. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is probably the safest pain reliever for most people who take supplements, Dr. Donaldson said, because it’s not associated with major drug-supplement interactions (though at high doses or if taken with alcohol it can damage the liver). Do not exceed the maximum dosage listed on the product label.

If acetaminophen alone does not provide sufficient relief (for instance, after serious drilling or other major dental work), the best bet is to combine acetaminophen with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen. As always, your goal should be to use the lowest possible dose for the shortest period of time necessary to achieve the needed effect.

Antibiotics. Safest for supplement users are usually amoxicillin, cephalexin, metronidazole and penicillin. If your dentist says that you need an antibiotic, ask whether one of these four would be appropriate.

Sedatives. For dental patients who need a sedative or antianxiety medication, nitrous oxide gas is typically a safe choice, Dr. Donaldson said, because it is not metabolized by the body. Instead it is inhaled, usually through a nasal mask, and diffused through the lungs before entering the brain and triggering relaxation. This happens quickly, typically within three deep breaths…and the nitrous oxide exits the system within minutes once the gas is turned off. Its effect is easily modified, so if you’re already taking valerian, for example, your dentist can simply “dial down” the concentration of nitrous oxide you inhale.


Considering that more than one-third of all Americans now take supplements, all health-care providers should be asking every patient about their use. But according to a recent survey by AARP and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (a part of the National Institutes of Health), 67% of the adults surveyed did not speak with their health-care providers about any supplement use. Of those who did, the majority said that they themselves—and not their health-care providers—brought up the topic.

Takeaway message: If your dentist doesn’t ask you about all of the drugs you use, including over-the-counter medications and supplements, take the initiative and bring up the subject. If your dentist is not well-versed in drug-supplement interactions, show him this article—he may learn quite a bit!

Source: Mark Donaldson, PharmD, director of pharmacy services, Kalispell Regional Medical Center, Kalispell, Montana, and clinical professor, Skaggs School of Pharmacy, University of Montana, Missoula. Dr. Donaldson is a Fellow of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and the American College of Healthcare Executives. His study was recently published in Journal of the American Dental Association.

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