How hot drinks can leave you down in the mouth
Study shows temperature is main cause of gum disease
BEFORE you pick up that cup of steaming hot coffee, beware. According to a leading dental expert, we should only sip tea and coffee when it’s tepid. The same goes for eating soups and pizzas. "By continual intake of hot drinks and food, I am convinced we are literally cooking the skin off our teeth, causing major gum recession. I’m stunned nobody, including myself, ever considered the possibility before," says Ronald Cullen, Until now, the main reasons people get gum disease are cited as poor oral hygiene that creates a build-up of bacterial plaque, teeth grinding, incorrect tooth brushing and lack of skin elasticity due to age. But Cullen is prepared to stake his reputation that these factors are only responsible for a tenth of the problems and that 90 per cent of the reason we "get long in the tooth" is due to the consumption of hot food and drink. This is an entirely different message from established ideas that will no doubt disturb the dental profession. Explaining how the idea came to him, Cullen says: "I was discussing how to cook salmon with a dentist friend. I told him to pop it into boiling water for no longer than a couple of minutes or the flesh would disintegrate. Then it hit me with a shock. The next day I examined a patient’s slough (white matter at edge of gums) and found it consisted of scorched flesh." He also believes smokers who puff down to the butt cause serious damage. "It’s like a mini-chimney. A fire is as hot at the base as the air rising off it." WHY doesn’t all this heat cause serious pain? "Because we’ve already cooked and deadened the nerve endings. They never get a chance to fully repair before we hit them with the next cigarette, or hot cheese pizza or cup of coffee." The results of a clinical observation study carried out by Cullen are astounding. After questioning 2,000 past patients about their eating habits, indications are that all his patients with no gum recession have a "cool" diet"It’s very clear," says Cullen. "One patient who had major implant treatment 25 years ago, shows absolutely no sign of gum recession, which is unbelievably rare considering the surgery involved. He only drinks iced tea and lives on salad. "Another patient had bad recession only on the left side of her mouth. It turned out she had an odd habit of only drinking from one side." There could be other reasons for this, such as wear and tear on that side from chewing. But with investigation Cullen insists Oral Burn Syndrome is the answer. "My study also shows that if you have any metal-work in your mouth, it acts as a conductor intensifying the heat, and the surrounding damage." He also warns of the danger of drinking and eating hot substances after a dental anaesthetic. "The damage you can’ do when you can’t feel the heat is appalling. I had a patient 10 years ago and was distraught to learn the day after performing surgery on her palate, that all the surface skin sloughed off." TESTING his theory, he recently telephoned her to ask her how she drinks her coffee. "She replied: ‘Piping hot’. I then told her to try and remember if she’d drunk anything before the anaesthetic had worn off. "And she replied: ‘Of course, three cups of coffee.’ "At present we’re carrying out clinical observation aided by a questionnaire prepared by a well-known London hospital. "Sadly, animal tests are often required to prove a point. And obviously, no animal will drink boiling water. "Only humans. Which really, rests my case."