Oct 292013
 
Cotterill, Christopher (Passport Photo)

Christopher A. Cotterill, DMD, assistant clinical professor in the ECU School of Dental Medicine

In the last few days of October, Halloween is only a few days away with Thanksgiving following soon after and generally marking the beginning of the holiday season.

This festive time of year is wonderful for allowing enjoyment of traditions and socializing with friends and family. However, this often involves increased intake of candy, confections, and other treats that normally would not be consumed in such quantity or frequency.

Maintaining good oral health along with these dietary changes is important for people of all ages, but it is especially important for children.

This is one reason that a year ago the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the Ad Council instituted the Partnership for Oral Health. This campaign, http://2min2x.org, was designed to raise awareness of oral health in children, parents, and caregivers.

As exemplified by its web address, one of the keys to good oral health is maintaining good oral hygiene through brushing children’s teeth for 2 minutes 2 times a day.

Other good oral health practices include:

  • Brushing teeth after meals, especially at night, and not having snacks or sweetened beverages between brushing and bedtime.
  • Supervising a child’s brushing and flossing until they are old enough to do a good job on their own. When children develop this ability can vary slightly, but for most children it’s around age 8.
  • Using dental floss to clean between teeth at least once a day, every day as soon as any of the adjacent teeth begin to touch each other. Use of floss is important for the removal of plaque and food between the teeth where the bristles of a toothbrush cannot reach. If traditional use of dental floss wrapped around fingers is found to be too difficult for the child, parent, or caregiver, then the use of disposable flossers or other flossing aids can help make this easier.
  • Delivering topical fluoride to the teeth through toothpaste, rinse, or fluoridated water can help strengthen enamel and make it more resistant to the acidic attack that is involved in the tooth decay process.
  • Seeing a dentist regularly. The AAPD recommends that all children have a dental home.  Properly establishing a dental home means that all children should see a dentist by one year of age and on a regular basis for the rest of their lives, similar to recommendations for wellness checks with pediatricians. This is important because dentists can detect small problems before they become bigger and start to cause pain. 

These and other recommendations can be found on the AAPD’s website at: http://www.aapd.org

-Christopher A. Cotterill, DMD, assistant clinical professor

ECU School of Dental Medicine

Department of Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics

 

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Jan 102013
 

Your New Year’s resolutions may include lifestyle changes like weight control, exercise, and stress relief, but have you thought about resolving to improve your oral health?

Below are some resolutions to consider regarding oral health—not only for 2013 but for a lifetime. Over the next couple of months, we’ll discuss what the American Dental Association has to say about ways to improve your overall oral health. Consider these lifelong resolutions:

  1. Read about oral health and know the facts (not fiction)
  2. Brush and floss regularly
  3. Visit a dentist regularly
  4. Quit smoking
  5. Eat sweets in moderation

Regarding No.1, the American Dental Association has a “Mouth Healthy” website to answer questions on oral health throughout the life span, including pregnancy, babies and kids, preteens and teens, adults under 40, adults 40-60, and adults over 60. Check out the website here.

An example of what “Mouth Healthy” offers is a quiz on oral health care. Do you know if these statements are true or false? 

  • Aspirin placed next to a tooth is a good way to relieve a toothache.
  • A little bleeding of the gums after brushing or flossing is normal.
  • Sensitivity in teeth means you have decay.
  • Sugarless chewing gum can help keep teeth healthy.

Get the answers here.

 

Nov 152012
 

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