Kids of all ages agree: candy is the best part about Valentine’s Day.
Believe it or not, even dentists eat candy and other sweet treats on occasion. In fact, we’d argue that the ability to enjoy candy hearts each February is one of the sweetest incentives to maintaining good oral health. Go ahead – tell your kids we said so!
While you’re at it, you might check out the fun, free resources available to you all month long, through the American Dental Association’s National Children’s Dental Health Month. Every February, ADA sponsors the month to raise national awareness around oral health best practices for youth – a message that ECU School of Dental Medicine faculty and students would like to deliver to North Carolina’s many underserved dental patients. So while National Children’s Dental Health Month gives us yet another reason to love February, you might say it’s an occasion we at ECU commemorate year-round.
We want to inform kids (and grown-ups!) about dental care best practices that allow them to both continue eating the foods they love, and safeguard against a variety of health problems. And ever since we opened our doors in the fall of 2011, improving access to patient care has been our goal.
The path to better oral health in North Carolina starts with our kids. When we teach our children to care for their teeth at an early age, they’ll reap the benefits for a lifetime. Today, that cavity-free kid who remembers to brush twice a day can still enjoy a few candy hearts. And down the road, the grown-up version of the same child will remember that flossing is part of the overall regimen in preventing heart disease.
Read more about how the School of Dental Medicine’s service-based curriculum delivers dental care to North Carolina kids and grown-ups who need it most: http://www.ecu.edu/cs-dhs/dentistry/About-Us.cfm.
Officials from East Carolina University, Jackson County, Western Carolina University, Southwestern Community College, and state legislators gathered Dec. 3 on a scenic mountainside in Sylva to break ground for an ECU School of Dental Medicine Community Service Learning Center.
The center will be built in the Jackson County services complex near the senior center, Department of Social Services and rescue squad. Officials expect the building to be completed next summer.
“ECU is thrilled to partner in the health care mission of Jackson County and the region,” said Dr. Phyllis Horns, ECU vice chancellor for health sciences. “We are proud to lead initiatives for improved dental and other health services for residents of this region and across the state.”
The dental center is the third of 10 centers ECU is planning to care for rural, underserved populations across the state. The first center opened in Ahoskie in June, and the second will open in Elizabeth City in January. Each center contains 16 dental chairs and state-of-the-art general dentistry facilities.
ECU School of Dental Medicine faculty members, post-doctoral residents and dental students will provide patient care, giving the residents and students experience practicing in a community setting. The center also will employ local staff members. Medicaid and other forms of insurance will be accepted.
Although blessed with a picturesque place to live, many residents of Jackson and surrounding counties do not have adequate dental resources.
Paula Carden, director of the Jackson County Health Department, has been a supporter of the center since the idea was proposed years ago. “The dental needs of the people of this region are not being met,” said Carden, “Dental health is essential for overall health, and many are being left out. I’ll be happy when we can refer patients to the center.”
Peggy Novotny, director of external affairs
School of Dental Medicine
Thanksgiving might not seem like the day for starting good eating habits. But there are a few things you can do on Thanksgiving that can be good for oral health year-round.
You may not realize, but Thanksgiving is also a feast for the millions of microbes in your mouth. The bacteria in saliva love the same starchy and sugary Thanksgiving foods you do. When bacteria break down sugars, they produce acids. And that’s bad news for tooth enamel.
Here a few things to think about at Thanksgiving that can make a big impact on oral health:
• Cut out the sugary drinks – Carbonated soft drinks contain lots sugar and acids that erode tooth enamel. It’s blasphemous in the South, but your waistline and teeth will thank you if you start drinking unsweet tea or use alternative sweeteners. You can make a special low sugar holiday drink using diet ginger ale or clear diet soda. Fill an ice cube tray with reduced sugar cranberry juice. Pour the ginger ale or diet soda over the cranberry cubes. As the cubes dissolve, your holiday drink becomes infused with flavor. You can even add a dash of orange juice for flavor and color.
• Serve plenty of fiber-rich vegetables. As if fiber isn’t awesome already, Thanksgiving foods with high fiber like sweet potatoes, pumpkin and broccoli help clean your mouth because fiber stimulates saliva production. Saliva helps flush out food particles and acid attacking your teeth.
• Incorporate crunchy vegetables – Another good reason for crudité platters, crunchy vegetables and fruits like celery and apples have high water content, which dilutes the effects of the sugars they contain and stimulate saliva production. Crunchy vegetables are also low-calorie. Crunchy fruits and vegetables also help by mechanically removing plaque from teeth.
• Offer hot green or black tea – It’s warm, it’s comforting and it contains antioxidants called polyphenols. Studies have shown polyphenols help suppress bacteria that can produce harmful acid. This could be an alternative to an after-dinner cup of coffee.
• Don’t forget the water – Tap water contains fluoride, rinses your mouth and is calorie-free.
And if you have a long drive home after the holiday meal and don’t have a toothbrush, chew a piece of sugar-free gum. It will increase saliva flow and reduce the acid level in your mouth.
Nancy Jacobson, DMD, Clinical Associate Professor
Advanced Education in General Dentistry Program
East Carolina University
School Of Dental Medicine
Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the holiday season are just around the corner, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and Ad Council have teamed up for a campaign to promote oral health. This Partnership for Oral Health is designed to raise awareness of children, parents and caregivers about oral health.
• Remember to brush teeth twice a day for at least two minutes.
• Parents and caregivers should help or watch over their kids’ tooth brushing abilities until they’re at least 8-years-old.
• Children should use a soft toothbrush that allows them to reach all areas of their mouth.
• Replace toothbrushes every three to four months or sooner if the bristles are worn out, or if your children have been sick
• Children also should clean between their teeth once a day, every day, with floss or flossers to remove plaque and food where a toothbrush can’t reach. Teeth can be flossed as soon as two teeth touch each other.
• Plaque is the sticky film of germs that forms and collects on teeth and gums after eating. Plaque that is not removed by brushing twice a day can lead to cavities.
• Visit your dentist regularly your whole life, starting no later than age one. This is important for good oral health.
• As soon as teeth appear in your baby’s mouth, it’s possible for your child to develop cavities. It is important to keep your baby’s gums and teeth clean to prevent tooth decay, even in baby teeth. Brush for two minutes, twice a day.
• Fluoride helps fight cavities and is found naturally in water and some foods. Fluoride is added to dental products like toothpaste to help protect teeth from cavities.
• Taking good care of a child’s teeth reduces the number of bacteria in their mouth that can cause tooth decay.
• A balanced diet helps teeth and gums to be healthy. A diet high in natural or added sugars may place your child at extra risk for tooth decay.
• A sugary or starchy food with sugar is safer for teeth if it is eaten with a meal, not as a snack. Chewing during a meal helps produce saliva which helps wash away sugar and starch.
• Sticky foods, like potato chips, raisins and other dried fruit and candy are not easily washed away by saliva, water or milk, so they have more cavity-causing potential.
• Talk to your dentist about serving foods that foster good dental health.
Stuart D. Josell, DMD, MDenSC
Chair of Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics
East Carolina University
School of Dental Medicine