Strange Health Facts -- Explained

Why are yawns contagious?
Human beings mirror the behaviors of people they care about, and yawning falls into this category, speculate researchers. In a recent University of Pisa study, researchers observed more than 100 men and women yawning in front of strangers, acquaintances, friends and family. The infectious influence of yawning was twice as likely among friends, and three times as likely for family members as it was for strangers and acquaintances.

Why do teeth shift as we age?
Teeth are held in an arch form between the tongue, and lips and cheeks. “Your tongue pushes outward on your teeth, causing spacing, while your lips and cheeks push inward, causing crowding,” says Dr. Andrew Trosien, a private-practice orthodontist in Tracy, Calif. Over time, these pressures can change, shifting the equilibrium, and your teeth can start to feel excessive pressure from either the tongue or lips.

Generally speaking, a little bit of crowding or spacing is not a concern. Sometimes though, tooth movement can be a sign of gum disease or other problems. In addition, if the teeth shift into a bad alignment, they can wear down, chip or cause other functional issues. Make sure to ask your dentist if you’re concerned, and most orthodontists will offer a free consultation.

Can achy joints really give the weather forecast?
“Yes. This is something I hear from my patients on a regular basis,” says Dr. David Borenstein, who’s treated arthritis patients for more than 35 years in Washington, D.C. When bad weather is coming, the barometric pressure drops in the atmosphere, and it causes a fluid shift in all human bodies. It’s slight, and most of us don’t notice a change, says Borenstein, but in patients with joint injuries, damage or arthritis, the fluid can’t move through these joints as effortlessly, resulting in feelings of stiffness and pain.

Why do women have colder feet and hands than men? 
“Women conserve more heat around their core organs than men do, which means less heat makes it to a woman’s extremities,” says Borenstein. Since women are biologically geared to carry babies, it’s vital that their bodies keep their vital organs warm. So blood flow in women is designed to support the central part of the body, compared to the arms and legs.

Get Healthy at Home, Virtually

Want to see your doctor, therapist or dentist in the comfort and privacy of your own home? Thanks to telemedicine it’s possible. From video chat sessions to personal phone consultations, doctors, therapists and even dentists are giving new meaning to the words house calls.

The best part about it: costs are often covered by health insurance. If the patient doesn’t have insurance, fees are minimal; whereas some companies charge a monthly fee of less than $40; others charge a consult fee, which is usually under $50.

Have a consult with your doc

At AmeriDoc, a leading telemedicine company, a patient signs up to become a member, and then calls to speak with a representative from the company. The representative asks numerous questions about the patients’ health and symptoms. An assigned doctor will then call the patient within a three-hour window. “We can schedule video chats for our members with doctors or set up phone consultations,” says Stephanie Manley, executive vice president of Operations for AmeriDoc. “Usually our patients prefer phone consultations. The doctor spends as much time as possible with the patient on the phone, and calls that patient’s pharmacy if prescriptions are needed.”

Perk up your mental health

Dr. Rebecca Gladding of Strategic Planning and Psychiatrist at Health Link Now, a major telemedicine service, sees patients online and over the phone. “Our patients come from all over the country,” she says. “They are people who are looking for medication management, therapy or both. They have a wide range of diagnoses or reasons they are seeking out help. In addition to treating anxiety, depression, bipolar or other mental health needs, we focus on improving wellness, helping people manage and cope with chronic medical conditions, and complete consultations for patients wanting to undergo weight loss surgery or receive a transplant.”

Join a weight loss clinic

Some people lose weight better when they are part of a group. At BMIQ, weight loss management is geared toward people who have a high body mass index (BMI), which is associated with medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease.

BMIQ offers 8- and 16-week programs with registered dieticians. “The cost of our programs is less than $20 a week,” says Laura Cipullo, who is one of BMIQ’s registered dieticians and who has her own private practice in New York City.

Each online meeting is 45 minutes; patients get to ask questions, and between meetings patients can email questions to their registered dietician.

“The online live class teaches patients what and how to eat healthy while providing the support you need to make those changes,” says Cipullo.

Get a teeth checkup at home

Even the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Council of Dental Practice will discuss creating standards and guidelines for teledentistry when it meets later this month. According to the ADA, The University of Nebraska began a teledentistry project in 2003, while the Division of Dentistry at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles and the University of Minnesota offers teledentistry to their patients.

The Pacific Center for Special Care at the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in California offers a virtual dental practice for school-age children in low-income areas. Most of these students have a higher rate of not going to dentists than students from more affluent neighborhoods. For that reason, it makes sense to bring the dental care to them.  

Dental technicians go into those communities, take X-rays and photos of the students’ teeth, and share that information and photos with dentists. After a dentist looks at those uploaded records, they can determine who needs to come into their offices for treatment.

Making health convenient

For people who skip out on doctor or dentist visits, because they can’t spare the time, telemedicine options can help make health a priority. “The major advantages are that people can receive care at home or in their office, wherever it is convenient for them,” says Gladding. “They just need access to high-speed Internet, a webcam and a computer or mobile device.”

While a lot can be done over the phone or via computer, it isn’t a cure-all. Doctors and dentists will ask patients to come into their offices for blood work or if their findings show something critical that needs to be treated in person.

The Secret to Instant Attraction: A Beautiful Smile

Want a better smile and cavity-free teeth? Brushing and flossing are merely the beginning. Turns out there are a host of incredible edibles that fight bacteria, attack plaque and build enamel with every bite, says Wendy Bazilian, a registered dietitian and author of The Superfoods Rx Diet. Here, her surprising foods for a camera-ready smile.

Better Smile Food No. 1: Whole Grains
You know whole grains are filled with cholesterol-lowering fiber. But were you aware that the B vitamins and iron they contain help keep your gums healthy too? According to a McMaster University study of 34,000 men in Canada, those who ate three daily servings of whole grains -- think brown or wild rice, barley, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread -- were 23 percent less likely to suffer from periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease.

Better Smile Food No. 2: Carrots
They’re not just good for your eyes; carrots are packed with beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that is key to building and maintaining strong, healthy teeth. Sweet potatoes and pumpkin are also excellent sources of this wonder nutrient.

Better Smile Food No. 3: Celery
Water-rich vegetables -- like celery -- cleanse the teeth, washing away sugar and starches that can cause cavities and plaque. In addition, munching on crunchy veggies massages your gums, which increases circulation and can help remove bacteria.

Better Smile Food No. 4: Dairy Products
Dairy products such as yogurt, low-fat or nonfat milk and cheese are all rich in calcium, a mineral that is essential for preserving and rebuilding tooth enamel. Calcium also aids in saliva production, which helps kill the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.

Better Smile Food No. 5: Sesame Seeds
Another great calcium source, sesame seeds have a gritty texture that acts like 100 tiny toothbrushes to tackle plaque buildup. Try them sprinkled on cereal or vegetables, or blend them into yogurt, soups, and homemade breads and muffins.

Better Smile Food No. 6: Lean Protein
Eggs, poultry and lean beef are rich in phosphorous, a mineral that is critical to maintaining strong tooth enamel. In addition, phosphorous helps balance pH levels in the mouth, discouraging the growth of cavity-causing bacteria.

Better Smile Food No. 7: Water
Substituting water for sugary sodas and sports drinks may be the tooth-friendliest move you can make. Frequent exposure to liquid sugars allows cavity-causing ingredients to reach the most remote surfaces of teeth and gums. Sugary drinks also contribute to the formation of decay-causing acids in the mouth. (If you must indulge your cola cravings, be sure to sip through a straw to reduce exposure.) Water, on the other hand, contains no harmful ingredients and helps wash away bacteria from food, making it one of the cheapest, best dental health boosters around.

What do you eat to get your best smile? Tell us below or @Completely_You

Teeth-Whitening Blunders to Avoid

Thanks to easy at-home whitening products, beautifying your smile has never been simpler. However, in the quest for whiter teeth, there are some mistakes that can render your efforts less effective and others that can put your health and looks at risk. Here, the top teeth-whitening no-no’s and how to avoid them.

Whitening mistake # 1: Using products longer than directed.

This is the top whitening faux pas. After all, if a little is good, then a lot is better, right? Wrong. Wearing your whitening strips or trays longer than you’re supposed to is not going to bleach your teeth faster. “Instead, it can cause painful sensitivity by irritating the nerves in the teeth and burn the gums,” explains New York City-based cosmetic dentist, Lana Rozenberg, DDS. “It can also leave teeth translucent and bluish on the edges.”  You can cause similar problems if you whiten too often -- for example, every four weeks, when a product recommends every six to twelve months. For best results, follow directions. “Most products have been tested and designed to work in a specific time period,” adds Rozenberg.

Whitening mistake # 2: Letting excess gel seep onto your gums.

Whitening strips and trays use a gel to bleach your teeth and remove stains. However, when you press strips onto your teeth or insert trays, some of the excess gel may ooze out onto your gums. “This can burn your gums leaving them red and painful with the gum tissue sloughing off,” explains Rozenberg.  After applying a tooth-whitening product, check gums to see if any gel has seeped out onto them. If it has, diligently remove it with a gauze pad.

Whitening mistake # 3: Using products that aren’t FDA-approved.

These teeth whiteners may be available, but that doesn’t mean you should use them. “The FDA is there to protect us and requires companies to do safety tests and research before granting their approval,” explains Rozenberg. A non-FDA approved product may not be effective, but that isn’t the only issue. “When a product is not FDA approved, it could harm not only your teeth, but your body,” cautions New York-based, celebrity dentist Marc Lowenberg, DDS. “Non-FDA approved teeth whitening products often use fillers and chemical concentrations that can damage teeth.” With plenty of approved whitening products to choose from, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Whitening mistake # 4: Not being consistent.

If you don’t use a product as often as directed, you may whiten your teeth but may not achieve the best results possible. “It takes time for teeth whitening products to work and you must be consistent in using them,” explains Lowenberg. “If you stop your at-home teeth whitening routine, your teeth may become yellow again and you have to do the whole process over again.” The bottom line is that you have to follow the instructions on these whitening products; the directions are there for a reason, says Rozenberg.

Whitening mistake # 5: Not prepping your pearly whites. 

No matter how eager you are to brighten your teeth, you need to take a few minutes to clean them well before applying the trays, whitening strips, or other tooth whitener. “Otherwise the whitening product isn’t going to be as effective, because plaque is covering the surface of the tooth,” says Rozenberg. Brush, floss and then start turning up the wattage on your smile.

Whitening mistake # 6: Drinking or eating while whitening.

This may sound obvious, but some people do drink water -- and even eat -- when they have whitening strips or trays in their mouths. The seal between the whitening product and your mouth isn’t a perfect one, making this a huge mistake for several reasons. “First, you may be diluting the whitening gel material so it will not be as effective,” says Rozenberg. “Second, you may swallow some of the gel with your drink.” Though the gel is made to go in your mouth, you don’t want to ingest any more than you have to.

What’s Giving Away Your Age?

Women freak at the first sign of laugh lines or freckles that don’t fade, but your face isn’t the only place where telltale signs of aging take place. Find out what could be giving away the number of candles on your birthday cake -- and what you can do to stop them.

Get it off your chest

If your wardrobe isn’t made exclusively of turtlenecks, your neckline and bust are exposed to just as much sun as your face. For that reason, wrinkles and age spots show up here just as commonly, says Dr. Babar Rao, dermatologist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J.

To make matters worse, we don’t take the same precautions with our neckline as we do with our complexion, he says. The result: loose, wrinkly and leathery skin. To keep your neck and chest supple and blemish-free, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to your neck and chest daily.

Investing in a few more turtlenecks couldn’t hurt, either. Rao says sunscreen is just the first step in sun protection; seek shade or cover up with clothes when possible. He also recommends using the same anti-aging regimen on your bustline as you do on your face. Moisturize in the morning and apply wrinkle reducers like retinol at night.

Lend a hand

Having a hard time guessing someone’s age? Take a quick peek at their hands. According to Rao, the skin on our hands is thin to begin with. As we age, it loses pigment and collagen, which makes wrinkles more pronounced and skin look looser. Not only are hands exposed to the elements 24-7; hand-washing can suck the moisture right out of them. To counteract this effect, apply hand lotion every time you wash your hands. And, just as with your face and neck, always apply sunscreen to the back of your hands whenever you’re outdoors.

Whiten up

A smile should be one of our most alluring features -- don’t let discolored teeth or receding gums detract from it. Decades of eating, drinking and skipping out on dentist visits can take a toll on pearly whites -- leaving them yellow or gray.

According to Dr. Louis Dipede, dentist and assistant professor of prosthodontics at New Jersey Dental School in Newark, N.J., maintaining a youthful smile is as easy as keeping up with good oral hygiene. “The color change is often due to deposits on the tooth, like tartar and plaque,” he says. Brushing, flossing and getting regular professional cleanings can help polish away yucky yellow deposits. Also, invest in an enamel-protecting toothpaste, which kills acid-forming bacteria, remineralizes teeth to rebuild enamel and forms a protective layer over the teeth to fend off new stains.

To restore some of that youthful white luster, try teeth-whitening products, which work well on yellow or brown teeth, says Dipede. The key to good results, he says, is consistency. Use a daily whitening product for at least two weeks, he says. This is how long it takes to break up and dissolve tooth stains. Though you may experience tooth sensitivity, this side effect is usually temporary, says Dipede.

Flash a youthful grin

To keep your gums from going the way of your hairline, be sure to brush and floss regularly. When plaque doesn’t get lifted from the teeth, it can irritate the gums and cause inflammation, known as gingivitis, in as little as two weeks. Let it go longer than that, and the inflammation can spread deep into the gums and jawbone, leading to receding gums. “And that can’t be repaired,” says Dipede.

To protect your gums while brushing, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush very lightly in a circular motion for two minutes. Even still, says Dipede, “You’re bound to miss a spot while brushing, and if tartar accumulates, you won’t be able to remove it from the nooks and crannies.” That’s why he says you should never skip out on seeing your dentist.