Maintaining good oral health among holiday treats doesn’t have to be tricky

 School of Dental Medicine  Comments Off on Maintaining good oral health among holiday treats doesn’t have to be tricky
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,, 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:

-Christopher A. Cotterill, DMD, assistant clinical professor

ECU School of Dental Medicine

Department of Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics



Addressing the oral health of North Carolina’s children

 School of Dental Medicine  Comments Off on Addressing the oral health of North Carolina’s children
Sep 102012

How are teeth problems affecting child outcomes in North Carolina?

Dr. Ford Grant, DMD, director of general dentistry and clinical associate professor in the ECU School of Dental Medicine, responds to ECU Health Beat questions.

Q. In your experience, how do dental problems affect the academic success of children?

A. Since opening the first Community Service Learning Center (CSLC) in Ahoskie we have seen many children with extensive decay and abscessed teeth. These children experience oral pain on a daily basis. Their parents seem to be at a loss as to what is causing the problem. A recent study at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry found children with tooth pain were four times more likely to have a grade point average below the median. The study noted that children missed an average of six days in elementary school due to illness. Dental problems accounted for 2.1 days of the total. They also found that parents missed an average of 2.5 days of work per year to take their children to the dentist.

Q. How can more be done to help parents understand the importance of oral hygiene for their children?

A. Of course you cannot be healthy without a healthy mouth, to paraphrase former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. Many dental offices refuse to see children until they can behave and sit still. By then the damage is done, if good oral hygiene practices are not carried out at home. At the Ahoskie CSLC, we encourage parents to bring their children for an initial exam before the age of one, when the teeth are just starting to erupt. This exam is in the lap of the parent and the purpose is to teach the parent how to properly clean their child’s teeth and mouth. Bacteria infect the hard tissues of the teeth causing tooth decay or caries (cavities). You are not born with those bacteria in your mouth. It is passed to children from contact with another person’s saliva. We need to approach the problem in the way other infectious diseases are managed.

Q. How will the ECU School of Dental Medicine impact oral health awareness/education in North Carolina?

A. The ECU School of Dental Medicine will have an active pediatric dentistry program that will help train dentists to enter the community and take on these problems. At the CSLC, we will hope to be involved with health programs in the community to educate parents and new mothers to prevention of oral infections and decay. School based programs will be used to help encourage good nutritional and oral care practices for a lifetime.

For more on the USC study, go to: