Back-to-school season can be an exciting time for kids—and parents too! As summer starts giving way to fall, your to-do list begins to fill up: there are clothes to buy, supplies to gather, and get-togethers with friends both old and new. Here are a few do’s (and don’ts) that can help keep your kids oral health in tip-top shape through this busy season…and all year long.
Do pack kids a healthy lunch
In addition to a protein like lean meat, eggs or peanut butter, a healthy lunch may include crunchy vegetables such as carrot or celery sticks, dairy like cheese or yogurt, and fresh fruits. Add a bottle of water and your kids will be all set to go!
Don’t include soda or sugary snacks
Foods with a lot of sugar—like soda, processed foods and sweet treats—aren’t a healthy choice. In addition to promoting obesity, sugar provides food for the harmful oral bacteria that can cause cavities. Even 100% juices have loads of sugar—so go easy on the sweets for better checkups!
Do be sure kids brush and floss regularly
That means brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and flossing once a day—every day! Brushing and flossing daily is the most effective way to fight cavities at home. If your kids need help, take time to show them how…and if you need to “brush up” on the proper techniques yourself, just ask us to demonstrate.
Don’t let kids chew on pencils or fingernails
Fidgety kids often develop habits like these to help themselves feel calmer. But chewing on things that don’t belong in the mouth is a recipe for dental problems—like chipped or broken teeth. Try giving them sugarless gum instead; if the problem persists, ask us for help.
Do ask about a mouthguard if they play sports
It’s not just for football or hockey—baseball, basketball and many other schoolyard sports have the potential to damage teeth and gums. A custom-made mouthguard from our office is comfortable enough to wear every day, and offers superior protection.
Don’t forget to schedule routine dental visits
With the hustle and bustle of a new school year it’s easy to let things slide. But don’t put off your kids’ regular dental checkups! Professional cleanings and dental exams can help keep those young smiles bright, and prevent little problems from getting bigger.
Among the “to-do” items on your pre-dive checklist like “Pack wetsuit” or “Fill scuba tanks,” be sure to add one other: “Check my dental health status.”
While that may seem like an odd concern, the changes in atmospheric pressure you encounter while diving (or flying, for that matter) could amplify oral sensitivity and intensify pain if you have pre-existing teeth or jaw problems.
The reason for this is the effect of basic physics on the body. All anatomical structures, including organs, bones and muscles, equalize external pressures the body encounters. We don’t notice this at normal atmospheric pressure, but when we encounter an extreme — either lower pressure during air flight or higher pressure during a scuba dive — we may feel the effects of the pressure on any structure with a rigid-walled surface filled with either air or fluid. These structures can’t equalize the pressure as fast as other areas, resulting in pain or discomfort. This is known medically as “barotrauma,” or more commonly as a “squeeze.”
One structure in particular could have an effect on your upper teeth and jaws: the sinus cavities of the skull, particularly the maxillary sinuses just below the eyes. Their lower walls are right next to the back teeth of the upper jaw and, more importantly, share the same nerve pathways. It’s quite possible, then, for pain from one area to be felt in the other, commonly known as “referred pain.” A toothache could then be felt in the sinus region, and vice-versa.
During a squeeze, then, pain levels from existing problems in the teeth and jaws that were previously tolerable (or even unnoticed) may well become amplified as the pressure from the sinus cavity impinges upon the jaw. That dull toothache you’ve been having may suddenly become excruciating at 30,000 feet — or 30 meters under the surface.
That’s why it’s important to see us if you’ve experienced any signs of tooth decay, gum disease or TMD, including pain, before your next dive or air flight. And, if you encounter any significant pain while flying or diving, be sure you consult with us as soon as possible when you return. Taking action now could help you avoid a miserable, and potentially dangerous, flying or diving experience in the future.
If you would like more information on pressure changes and dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Pressure Changes can Cause Tooth and Sinus Pain.”
Want to know the exact wrong way to pry open a stubborn lid? Just ask Jimmy Fallon, host of NBC-TV’s popular “Tonight Show.” When the 40-year-old funnyman had trouble opening a tube of scar tissue repair gel with his hands, he decided to try using his teeth.
What happened next wasn’t funny: Attempting to remove the cap, Fallon chipped his front tooth, adding another medical problem to the serious finger injury he suffered a few weeks before (the same wound he was trying to take care of with the gel). If there’s a moral to this story, it might be this: Use the right tool for the job… and that tool isn’t your teeth!
Yet Fallon is hardly alone in his dilemma. According to the American Association of Endodontists, chipped teeth account for the majority of dental injuries. Fortunately, modern dentistry offers a number of great ways to restore damaged teeth.
If the chip is relatively small, it’s often possible to fix it with cosmetic bonding. In this procedure, tough, natural-looking resin is used to fill in the part of the tooth that has been lost. Built up layer by layer, the composite resin is cured with a special light until it’s hard, shiny… and difficult to tell from your natural teeth. Best of all, cosmetic bonding can often be done in one office visit, with little or no discomfort. It can last for up to ten years, so it’s great for kids who may be getting more permanent repairs later.
For larger chips or cracks, veneers or crowns may be suggested. Veneers are wafer-thin porcelain coverings that go over the entire front surface of one or more teeth. They can be used to repair minor to moderate defects, such as chips, discolorations, or spacing irregularities. They can also give you the “Hollywood white” smile you’ve seen on many celebrities.
Veneers are generally custom-made in a lab, and require more than one office visit. Because a small amount of tooth structure must be removed in order to put them in place, veneers are considered an irreversible treatment. But durable and long-lasting veneers are the restorations of choice for many people.
Crowns (also called caps) are used when even more of the tooth structure is missing. They can replace the entire visible part of the tooth, as long as the tooth’s roots remain viable. Crowns, like veneers, are custom-fabricated to match your teeth in size, shape and color; they are generally made in a dental lab and require more than one office visit. However, teeth restored with crowns function well, look natural, and can last for many years.
So what happened to Jimmy Fallon? We aren’t sure which restoration he received… but we do know that he was back on TV the same night, flashing a big smile.
If you would like more information about tooth restorations, please contact us or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers” and “Artistic Repair Of Front Teeth With Composite Resin.”
It’s easy to work up a thirst in the summer. You might be shooting hoops in the park, riding on a trail or playing volleyball on the beach. No matter what your favorite summertime activity is, outdoor fun can leave you dry—and then it’s time to reach for a cold one. But when your body craves hydration, what’s the best thing to drink?
The answer’s simple: water!
Sure, we’ve all seen those ads for so-called “energy” and “sports” drinks. But do you know what’s really in them? Sports drinks (all of those different “…ades”) are mostly water with some sugars, salts and acids. “Energy” drinks (often promoted as “dietary supplements” to avoid labeling requirements) also contain plenty of acids and sugars—and sometimes extremely high levels of caffeine!
Studies have shown the acid in both sports and energy drinks has the potential to erode the hard enamel coating of your teeth, making them more susceptible to decay and damage. And the sugar they contain feeds the harmful oral bacteria that cause tooth decay. So you could say that the ingredients in these beverages are a one-two punch aimed right at your smile.
It’s a similar story for sodas and other soft drinks, which often have high levels of sugar. In fact, some popular iced teas have 23 grams (almost 6 teaspoons) of sugar per 8-ounce serving—and a single 24-ounce can holds 3 servings! Many diet sodas (and some fruit juices) are acidic, and may damage your tooth enamel.
Water, on the other hand, has no acid and no sugar. It has no calories and no caffeine. Simple and refreshing, water gives your body the hydration it craves, with no unnecessary ingredients that can harm it. In fact, if you fill a reusable bottle from your own tap, you may not only benefit from cavity-fighting fluoride that’s added to most municipal tap water…you’ll also be helping the environment by cutting down on unnecessary packaging.
It’s best to drink water all of the time—but if you don’t, here are a few tips: If you want to enjoy the occasional soda or soft drink, try to limit it to around mealtimes so your mouth isn’t constantly bathed in sugar and acid. Swish some water around your mouth afterward to help neutralize the acidity of the drinks. And wait at least an hour before brushing your teeth; otherwise you might remove tooth enamel that has been softened by acids.
What you drink can have a big effect on your oral health—and your overall health. So when thirst strikes, reach for a cold glass of water. It can help keep you healthy this summer…and all year long.
If you would like more information about nutrition and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Think Before You Drink” and “Nutrition & Oral Health.”
“The Freshman 15” is a popular way of referring to the phenomenon of new college students gaining weight during their freshman year (although the average is less than fifteen pounds). According to research, college students gain weight mainly due to an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.
If you're experiencing this as a college student, you should also know poor diet and lifestyle choices harm your teeth and gums as well. If you don't want to encounter major dental problems, then you need to make some changes beginning with the same cause for your weight gain: what you eat and drink.
Like the rest of your body, your teeth and gums have the best chance for being healthy when you're eating a balanced, nutritional diet low in added sugar. And it's not just mealtime: constant snacking on sweets not only loads on the calories, it also feeds disease-causing oral bacteria. Sipping on acidic beverages like sodas, sports or energy drinks also increases the levels of acid that can erode tooth enamel.
Some lifestyle habits can also affect oral health. Using tobacco (smoked or smokeless) inhibits your mouth's natural healing properties and makes you more susceptible to dental disease. While it may be cool to get piercings in your lips, cheeks or tongue, the hardware can cause gum recession, chipped teeth and soft tissue cuts susceptible to infection. And unsafe sexual practices increase your risk for contracting the human papilloma virus (HPV16) that's been linked with oral cancer, among other serious health problems.
Last but not least, how you regularly care for your teeth and gums can make the biggest difference of all. You should brush and floss your teeth ideally twice a day to clean away plaque, a thin film of disease-causing bacteria and food particles. And twice-a-year dental cleanings and checkups will round out your prevention efforts against tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease.
Making your own choices is a rite of passage into adulthood. Making good choices for your teeth and gums will help ensure they remain healthy for a long time to come.
If you would like more information on maintaining dental health during the college years, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “10 Health Tips for College Students.”
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