Most people ration out the Halloween candy haul for weeks, but is that wise? After you eat sweets, bacteria feed on the sugars and starches left on your teeth and form plaque. Eventually, the acids in the plaque begin to wear away the enamel coating on your teeth, forming tiny holes (cavities) that grow larger and larger over time.
Eating all of your candy at once and then brushing your teeth after is actually less cavity-causing than parceling out your candy a little at a time each day (unless you plan to thoroughly brush your teeth after each daily treat—something that’s unrealistic for most of us.) From a cavity-causing perspective, the bacteria have a limit to how fast they can make acids—at some point there’s a threshold where they can’t make any more—whether you have one piece of candy or five.
In school, they used to have me state that each sugar exposure causes 20 minutes of acid production in your mouth. So eating one Lifesaver until it is gone is 20 minutes. If you then put a second one in, it’s another 20 minutes, and so on, totaling quite a few hours of acid production. But if you put the whole roll of Lifesavers in your mouth all at once, it would only be 20 minutes of acid production.
What may surprise you is that the treats that are most tooth friendly are those made of chocolate. Chocolate-based candy melts quickly in the mouth. Hard candies, gummies, candy corn and other sticky candies tend to last longer and/or stick to teeth where they are more likely to cause cavities.
Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist who treats both children and adults at her dental office located at 1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH 44053. Call 440-960-1940.
This year's Carol Burnett Award, presented at the Golden Globes, goes to Ellen DeGeneres for her “outstanding contributions to the television medium on or off the screen.” This is the latest in a long list of honors for the comedienne, talk show host and activist that includes Emmys, Grammys and Teen Choice Awards. And one not quite as well-known: a 2004 “Flossy” award.
DeGeneres received this honor from the National Flossing Council in recognition of her passionate promotion of oral hygiene, particularly flossing. She wrote about its virtues in her 2003 book, The Funny Thing Is…., saying, among other things, “Don't even think for a second that you can get away with not flossing.”
DeGeneres's motivational cheerleading for flossing is helpful and necessary because, well, many of us just don't like doing it. It requires more manual dexterity than its more popular sibling, brushing. And the tendency for the floss to gunk up with plaque residue for some is simply unpleasant.
Mainly, though, many folks think brushing is enough. Not so fast, according to dental professionals. While brushing removes disease-causing bacterial plaque from broad tooth surfaces, it can't effectively get into the spaces between teeth. It takes flossing to clear plaque from these more difficult areas.
But don't fret: There are ways to make flossing an easier—and more pleasant—task.
Ask us for help. As we said before, flossing does take some hand dexterity and coordination to perform. You may also wonder if you're doing it effectively. We can provide training and tips on how to be a more effective flosser at your next visit.
Practice, practice, practice. You probably think nothing of riding a bicycle, and yet it probably took you weeks or months as a kid to become proficient. Similarly, your first attempts at flossing might feel awkward, but you'll improve with practice, so don't give up.
Brush before you floss. Most people floss before brushing, but if you tend to encounter a lot of soft plaque debris that makes flossing “icky” for you, then try brushing first to clear a good portion of it out of the way before you floss. Just be aware, most professionals believe that flossing first is better because it loosens up debris between teeth so the bubbles from the toothpaste can carry it away. But any flossing is better than no flossing!
Try flossing tools. For some people, floss picks, small pre-threaded tools you can use with one hand, seem easier to maneuver than regular floss thread. If you have issues with manual dexterity, an oral irrigator can make the task easier: This handheld device uses a stream of pressurized water to loosen and flush away plaque between teeth.
So, follow Ellen DeGeneres's advice she gave Tulane University graduates during a commencement speech: “Remember to exfoliate, moisturize, exercise…and floss.” The latter, along with brushing, will certainly help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
If you’ve been to the dentist, you may have heard the words “your gums are inflamed”, but do you really understand what that means or why it’s important?
Inflammation is a localized, protective reaction to injury or infection. Signals of inflammation include: redness; swelling; pain; heat and, for your gums, bleeding. In response to inflammation, your body produces chemicals to try to ward off or destroy the irritating agent. If your inflammation continues for a long time, these chemicals can cause damage to both the surrounding area and your entire body.
The most common spot for oral inflammation is your gums. In this case, the irritants are plaque and calculus. Plaque is a mix of saliva, food and oral bacteria. Calculus, which is also called tartar, is plaque that has hardened. If the inflammation only affects your gums it is called gingivitis. Gingivitis can be reversed if the irritants are removed. Plaque can be removed with a toothbrush or dental floss. Tartar or calculus need to be removed by a dentist, dental hygienist, or dental specialist.
When gingivitis is present for a long time, the chemicals begin to break down the bone around your teeth. Once your bone is gone, it’s gone. There’s no way to replace it. When enough bone is lost, your tooth will loosen and need to be taken out. Once your jaw bone is involved, the process is called periodontitis or periodontal disease.
Inflammation chemicals and other disease-causing agents can enter your bloodstream when your inflamed gums bleed. Many scientific studies link inflammation to disease:
- Heart disease and gum disease seem to share some of the same agents. The common factor seems to be inflammation.
- Diabetes and gum disease have a complex interaction where both diseases affect each other.
- Pregnant women who have oral inflammation are more likely to have premature labor and babies with low birth weights.
- Some respiratory diseases show oral bacteria in the airways.
- Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms seem to worsen when oral inflammation is also present.
In addition, scientists are currently studying whether inflammation in the brain might be a cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Because oral inflammation is often not painful in its early stages and is not life-threatening, you may think “it’s no big deal” and feel that it doesn’t need to be treated. It is important to remember that your oral health and your overall health are closely related, and making dental care part of your regular schedule is the best way to maintain your health.
If you have any of the symptoms of gum inflammation and do not have a dentist, please call my office at 440-960-1940. We’d love to help you. We are also online at www.drjrobb.com
*Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.
Even the simplest, everyday things can be challenging for a child with special needs. Dental care is no exception.
If you have a child with a chronic condition that affects their physical, intellectual or behavioral abilities, you know how difficult keeping up with dental care practices can be. Here are 4 tips to help make dental care easier and ensure your child has healthy teeth and gums.
Take an active role in hygiene. Depending on their abilities, you may need to take a more active role in daily teeth cleaning. If you have to brush their teeth for them, it's usually easier to have them face you “knee-to-knee.” You can also use a second brush to keep their mouth propped open if they tend to bite or clench down while brushing.
Model behavior. If your child could eventually brush for themselves, it may still be a long training road. It can be an easier task if you make a habit of brushing your teeth together, or have them brush with a sibling. Not only does this allow you to monitor their progress, their learning process may be easier watching another person brush and then mimicking their actions.
Find the right dentist. Many children with special needs are subject to anxiety surrounding healthcare visits, including going to the dentist. Choosing the right dentist, skilled in the technical aspects of treatment for a special needs child and providing a “kid-friendly” environment, can make all the difference in the world. A pediatric dentist is often a good fit for children with chronic conditions.
Coordinate medical and dental care. A special needs child could have underlying health problems that complicate dental care, so keep your dentist well-informed about their overall health. Do likewise with their medical providers, particularly if their condition or treatments impact dental health, as in the case of medications they're taking that could inhibit saliva flow.
Ongoing dental care for a child with a chronic health condition can be difficult. But keeping their teeth and gums healthy is an important part of fostering greater overall health.
If you would like more information on dental care for special needs children, 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 “Managing Tooth Decay in Children With Chronic Diseases.”
When you walk down the oral care aisle at the grocery store, do you ever wonder how to choose between all the toothpastes on the shelves? Here are some things to consider when making your choice.
First, pick one that has the ADA Seal on it. (If you don’t know what the ADA Seal looks like, ask your dentist!) Toothpastes that have this seal have gone through a process to show that they do what they claim to do and that they are not harmful to teeth.
Fluoride or other anti-cavity ingredients are strongly recommended for adults and kids once they’re old enough to spit out extra toothpaste rather than swallowing it. (For infant toothpastes, don’t worry about fluoride.)
Beyond that, your choice may depend on what you want or need.
Toothpastes marked as “For Sensitive Teeth” usually contain extra ingredients to try to help control sensitivity. It is most effective for teeth that are sensitive to temperatures.
Whitening toothpastes work by removing surface stains from your teeth. (Very few are actually whiteners like tooth whitening products.) These toothpastes tend to be more abrasive and should not be used all the time. They can scratch porcelain restorations (such as crowns or veneers) and wear away your tooth enamel. (Oddly enough, lost tooth enamel can make your teeth look darker rather than the lighter color you might think you’d get from a whitening toothpaste.)
Baking soda is helpful. It is a mild abrasive and it helps to counter the acids that cause cavities. It also helps reduce gum inflammation (swelling and redness).
Liquid Calcium and/or ACP (Calcium Phosphate) are being tested to see if they can help keep tooth enamel from wearing away as quickly by replacing calcium on the tooth surface. Liquid calcium may better get into crevices and rough spots to help restore luster to surface enamel.
Triclosan has been shown to reduce gum inflammation and gingivitis (but if you have periodontal disease, it will not cure it.) but some experts (not necessarily dental experts) feel that it has been overused and is causing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
If you suffer from frequent canker sores, you may want to find a toothpaste that does not contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). Some studies indicate that SLS, which is a foaming agent, may increase canker sores in susceptible users. Just be aware that these toothpastes won’t foam up as much as the average ones do.
One newer technology is activated Edithamil which works to change the environment around the tooth so that the bacteria and other biofilm agents that stick to our teeth, cannot attach to the tooth as easily.
I hope this helps you navigate the toothpaste aisle a bit easier. If there’s a type you’re interested in, ask your dentist to recommend some brands that have that ingredient or type—particularly if you’re having trouble narrowing it down in the supermarket aisle.
Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist with an office on the Lorain/Amherst border at 1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH 44053. If you do not have a dentist, she invites you to join her office. Call 440-9600-1940. Find out more about Dr. Robb at www.drjrobb.com or join her Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/DrJenniferRobb
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