Halloween is a time-honored tradition in the United States, but the potential damage from all those sugary sweets on children’s teeth is downright frightening.
It takes only 20 minutes of a sugary attack on the teeth to lead to cavities. Sugars and starches greatly contribute to the production of plaque acids that attack the tooth enamel and create cavities.
Here are some tips to help keep your little ghoul’s and goblin’s teeth healthy:
- Avoid long-lasting, hard candy (unless it is sugar-free) as these types of treats remain in the mouth for a much longer time, continuously coating tiny teeth with sugar.
- Dole out candy with meals so the sugars are carried away by the saliva generated by eating.
- Sticky candies, like gummy bears, take longer to get washed away by saliva, increasing the risk for tooth decay.
- Sour sweets are highly acidic and can damage tooth enamel.
- Brush your teeth after eating sugary treats.
This Halloween, consider offering teeth-friendly treats like sugar-free gum or lollipops as an alternative. Chewing gum or enjoying a sucker produces saliva, which helps remove cavity-creating acid from teeth.
Apply sunscreen every day. The American Melanoma Foundation (AMF) recommends applying sunscreen if you are going to be outside for 20 minutes or more. Most of us reach this with our usual day-to-day activities. Make applying sunscreen part of your morning routine (ladies, apply before makeup). AMF recommends applying 30 minutes before you go outside and to reapply every two hours, after swimming or perspiring heavily.
Drink more water. We hear this every day. It seems simple, but some of us have a hard time making the switch. It is convenient to grab a bottle of pop or a sports drink when you are on the go, but you are causing more harm than good to your body and teeth. An easy way to drink more water is to substitute your mealtime drink with water. Here’s a tip: stock the fridge with water bottles of instead of pop. They’ll be easy to grab and take on the go.
Switch to sugarless gum. Recent studies show chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after eating can help prevent tooth decay. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), “If you chew after eating, the increased salivary flow can help neutralize and wash away the acids that are produced when food is broken down by the bacteria in plaque on your teeth.” Over time, this acid will break down your enamel, causing decay. Sugarless gum brands with the ADA seal of approval include: 5 Sugarfree Gum, Bazooka Sugarfree Bubble Gum, Eclipse Sugarfree Gum, Extra Sugarfree Gum, Icebreakers Ice Cubes Sugarfree Gum, Orbit Sugarfree Gum and Trident Sugarfree Gum,
Go outside. It’s summer and arguably the best time to be outdoors. So why do we spend time sitting in front of the TV or computer? Go outside and take a walk, ride a bike, work in the yard or play a game with the kids. Staying active will improve your overall health.
Source: American Dental Association
- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and gently brush teeth in a circular motion.
- Since your toothbrush can only clean one or two teeth at a time, change its position to properly clean each tooth.
- Gently brush the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces and the chewing surfaces of all your teeth.
- Use the tip of your brush to clean the inside surfaces of your front teeth using a gentle up-and-down stroke.
- Be sure not to brush your teeth too hard or use a hard bristled toothbrush, as this can cause your gums to recede and also wears down the tooth structure. These conditions can lead to tooth sensitivity.
- Last but not least, remember to brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
Do this for two minutes, two times a day, and floss once a day to keep your smile healthy.
For tips on selecting a toothpaste, read “Are you using the right toothpaste?”
Source: American Dental Association
Is your child participating in a spring sport? Make sure their smile is protected by wearing a mouthguard during both games and practices.
Types of mouthguards:
- Stock or ready-made mouthguards are the least expensive and can be purchased at most sports stores. These mouthguards are pre-formed, so often they don’t fit perfectly.
- Boil-and-bite mouthguards can be molded to fit your child’s mouth by boiling them in water and then biting into the warm plastic. They are available at most sporting goods stores.
- Custom-fitted mouthguards are designed and constructed by your dentist. This type of mouthguard can be more expensive than others, but ensures a perfect fit.
Caring for your mouthguard is simple. Just rinse it under cold water after each use and occasionally clean it with soap and cool water. Since mouthguards can tear or wear out, be sure to replace it after each sporting season.
To learn more about mouthguards and take a fun quiz, visit the American Dental Association’s Mouth Healthy website.
Source: American Dental Association
Worried about bad breath? You’re not alone. 50% of adults have had bad breath, or halitosis, at some point in their lives. Bad breath can get in the way of your social life. It can make you self-conscious and embarrassed. Fortunately, there are simple and effective ways to freshen your breath.
- Floss daily. Need another reason to floss your teeth at least once a day? Flossing daily helps improve bad breath by effectively removing the food particles and bacteria that contribute to it. That makes flossing one of the easiest ways to prevent and banish bad breath.
- Scrape your tongue. The coating that normally forms on the tongue can harbor foul-smelling bacteria. To eliminate them, gently brush your tongue with your toothbrush, or, better yet, use a tongue scraper. They’re designed to apply even pressure across the surface of the tongue area, removing bacteria, food debris, and dead cells.
- Drink more water. Drink plenty of water to help maintain the level of saliva in your mouth to help prevent bad breath in addition to following a good oral care routine. After eating, swishing your mouth with plain water also helps freshen your breath by eliminating food particles.
- Kick the habit. Bad breath is just one of many reasons not to smoke. Smoking damages gum tissue and stains teeth. It also increases your risk of oral cancer. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation programs that can help you give up tobacco for good.
- Skip after-dinner mints and chew gum instead. Sugary candies promote the growth of bacteria in your mouth and add to bad breath problems. Instead, chew sugarless gum, which stimulates saliva … the mouth’s natural defense against plaque acids.
Sources: American Dental Association WebMD, Oral-B
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Start practicing good dental health habits when they are young. Here are a few tips to keep your child’s smile healthy:
- Avoid giving your child sweetened liquids
- Brush your child’s teeth twice a day and floss once a day
- Make sure your child gets enough fluoride
- Start regular dental visits by age 3
- Ask your dentist for advice on sealants and mouth guards
- Keep your dentist informed of any changes in your child’s health
- Set a good example for your child!
Patients often tell me they have a hard time getting their young children to brush their teeth. It doesn’t have to be a battle each time. Here are some ideas to try with your kids:
- Start young. Toddlers love to imitate their parents. Give them a toothbrush and sit with your child on the bathroom floor so he/she can watch you use a toothbrush and try to copy it.
- Have your child brush the teeth of their stuffed animal or doll.
- Make it fun! Sign a song, read a story, turn it into a game.*
- Let your child practice brushing your teeth, while you brush his or hers.
- Have your child pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste at the store.
- Children learn from example. If they see that you are taking good care of your teeth they will want to do the same.
*See 7 Toothbrushing Tunes Kids (and Parents) Will Love from the American Dental Association (ADA).
Choices, choices, choices! Some toothpastes provide whitening enhancement, some guard against sensitivity and some protect against the effects of acid wear, and the list gets longer.
Toothpastes don’t merely clean teeth anymore. Different types have special ingredients. Many adults have, or are at risk of having, some form of gingivitis. It is a benefit to use a toothpaste that contains fluoride plus an antibacterial ingredient. Some toothpastes can also fight germs for 12 hours.
Here are a few tips on picking the right toothpaste:
- Look for the American Dental Association (ADA) seal to see if that toothpaste meets your specific oral health needs.
- If you have sensitive teeth, look for toothpaste without heavy abrasives. Try a desensitizing paste with either strontium chloride or potassium nitrate as an added ingredient.
- Toothpaste with “tarter control” on the label won’t remove tarter, however studies have shown it will reduce tarter formation up to 36 percent.
- Toothpaste with “baking soda” is less abrasive and will reduce sensitivity if you have gum recession or eroded teeth due to rigorous brushing with abrasive toothpaste.
- If you’ve had your teeth whitened, try a whitening toothpaste, which helps maintain the tooth shade. Look for ingredients carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide.
- Children under 3 are more likely to swallow toothpaste, so they should brush with a non fluoride toothpaste. Once they are able to spit, switch to a fluoride toothpaste.
- Most toothpastes for children come in fruit and bubble mint flavors. Fruit flavor is most popular, while bubble mint can seem “too spicy” or “hot” for some kids.
- Choose a toothpaste that tastes and feels best for you.
- Still have questions? Ask us at your next hygiene visit and we will help you make the right choice.
It is hard to resist the sugary treats and candy that seem to appear out of nowhere each October. You don’t have to deprive yourself in order to protect your teeth because Dr. Baker has some tips to keep your smile cavity-free.
Try to avoid the sticky, chewy, hard and crunchy treats. Soft and sticky candies stick to the teeth, giving the decay-causing bacteria time to decay your teeth. Hard candies dissolve slowly in your mouth, coating your teeth with sugar for a long period of time. They can also chip your teeth and cause choking in younger children.
Some Halloween candy alternatives:
- Animal crackers
- Stickers or temporary tattoos
- Pencils, pens or erasers
- Small packs of crayons
- Plastic jewelry
- Lip balm
Bad breath can be embarrassing. It can get in the way of our professional and social lives. If you suffer from bad breath, you are not alone.
Here are some helpful tips from WebMD:
- Brush and floss more frequently. The prime cause of bad breath is plaque. It will build up on your teeth and in between teeth, making an ideal place for bacteria to grow. Brush at least twice a day, and floss at least once a day to prevent the buildup of plaque.
- Scrape your tongue. The coating that forms on your tongue can contain foul smelling bacteria. You can brush your tongue with a toothbrush or use a tongue scraper to clean it.
- Avoid foods that sour your breath. Foods like onions and garlic are the worst offenders. They can make their way into your bloodstream and to your lungs where you breathe them out. It is best to avoid these foods before events when you want to be sure your breath is fresh.
- Kick the habit. Smoking will no doubt cause bad breath, as well as other oral health problems. You’ll notice a huge difference after you quit.
- Rinse your mouth. Using mouthwash will freshen your breath and help get rid of bacteria in your mouth. If you don’t have mouthwash handy, simply rinse with water after eating to remove food particles.
- Chew gum instead of mints. Sugary mints will only promote bacteria growth in the mouth. Gum (especially sugarless) stimulates saliva production, which is a natural defense against bacteria.
- Keep your gums healthy. Gum disease is a common cause of bad breath. Regular brushing and flossing will prevent gum disease and keep them healthy.
- Be aware of dry mouth. Lack of saliva promotes tooth decay and bad breath. If your mouth is feeling dry, drink some water or chew sugarless gum (or mints). Be sure to tell your dentist if you are experiencing persistent dry mouth.
- See your dentist. If your bad breath continues be sure to see your dentist. It could be a symptom of a medical condition such as a sinus infection, lung infection, liver or kidney disease.
If there’s one thing my patients need to do more of, it’s floss. Regular flossing removes plaque buildup between teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach, preventing gum disease.
Types of dental floss:
- Unwaxed floss—a thin nylon floss made of about 35 strands twisted together. It fits into tight spaces if your teeth are close together, but it can be prone to shredding or breaking.
- Waxed floss—a standard nylon floss with a light wax coating. It is less likely to break, but the wax coating may make it harder to use in tight spots.
- Dental tape—broader and flatter than standard floss and comes in waxed or unwaxed versions. People with more space between their teeth often find dental tape more comfortable to use than traditional floss.
Using a “flosser”
If you have trouble reaching the back of your mouth or gripping traditional floss, try a flosser. A flosser is basically a piece of floss on a handle. Like toothbrushes, flossers come in a variety of shapes and colors (even battery-powered!). Look for one with a long handle for easier holding and a compact head that makes it easier to reach behind the back teeth—a particularly tricky spot to clean. Dental flossers also come in a variety of kid-friendly colors and cartoon characters.
The best type of dental floss is the one that is most comfortable for you. The easier to use, the more likely the patient will floss on a regular basis.
Source: Oral B