Your Mouth Says a Lot More About You Than You Think
By: Mackenzie Gerl
February is Children’s Dental Health month and is dedicated to educating children and parents, as well as raising awareness, about the importance of proper oral health care. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to not only care for your own dental health, but your child’s as well. Everyone knows you should go to the dentist. Whether it’s for regularly scheduled checkups, or for treatment of dental issues, it’s important to stay on top of your dental health.
With that being said, why don’t we go?
There are a few main reasons we avoid the dentist, including: lack of time, no pressing need, cost and anxiety. For children, many parents don’t know when to take their children to the dentist for the first time or how often to take them. They also don’t know what healthy habits to start to build a foundation for dental health. These factors can be crucial to establishing healthy dental habits for life. According to Colgate, “From the first visit onward, Dr. Anna Guarna recommends that children come in every six months, unless an issue comes up that needs correction,” (DesFosse). The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children see the dentist by age one, or within six months after they get their first tooth.
What does your mouth say about you?
Poor dental habits may not only result in poor oral health, but poor overall health as well. Some symptoms of more serious illnesses can present themselves physically in the mouth which, if not cared for properly, may lead to serious health complications. Colgate experts explain, “If you don’t brush and floss regularly to keep your teeth clean, plaque can build up along your gumline, creating an environment for additional bacteria to accumulate in the space between your gums and your teeth. This gum infection is known as gingivitis. Left unchecked, gingivitis can lead to a more serious gum infection called periodontitis. The most severe form of gum infection is called acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, also known as trench mouth. (MFMER)
Like any ailment, the ideal solution and first step in treating oral infections and diseases is prevention. The oral infections listed above can result in severe health issues if left untreated, but luckily, they are very preventable. Good dental health starts with clean teeth and a healthy mouth. The Mayo Clinic recommends brushing teeth with a soft-bristled brush at least twice a day for two minutes, with a fluoride toothpaste and to consider using an electric or battery-operated toothbrush because these can reduce plaque and a mild form of gingivitis. They also recommend practicing good brushing technique by holding your toothbrush at a slight angle — aiming the bristles toward the area where your tooth meets your gum, gently brush with short back-and-forth motions and remember to brush the outside, inside and chewing surfaces of your teeth, as well as your tongue.
Another suggestion by the Mayo Clinic is to keep your dental equipment clean and know when it’s time to replace your toothbrush. You should invest in a new toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles become irregular or frayed. It can be difficult or nearly impossible to clean every space in between gums and teeth with your toothbrush alone. When it comes to flossing, Mayo Clinic recommends you be generous with the amount of floss you use, be gentle and sensitive when getting close to gumline, go slowly and take it one tooth at a time and be consistent, floss daily. If it’s difficult for you to use floss, dental picks or a pre-threaded flosser will work. (Mayo Clinic)
Are you wondering if there’s anything more you can do to maintain good dental health than just brushing and flossing? While brushing and flossing are integral steps in the process, nutrition and diet play a large role in dental health, too. Foods and drinks that are low in nutritional value and high in sugars and fats contribute to tooth decay. Most foods have some kind of added sugars that you wouldn’t normally think of, like milk and even vegetables. It’s important for everyone to have good dental habits, but for children specifically because of the large amounts of growth and development that happen in very short amounts of time. According to the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, kids should eat fruits and vegetables for half of their daily food consumption, whole grains such as whole wheat bread, oatmeal and brown rice, low-fat or fat-free dairy foods and lean poultry such as skinless poultry and fish. (ADA)
Nutrition and diet aren’t the only factors impacting children’s dental health. For babies and young children, bottles and pacifiers also have an effect on oral health. The ADA suggests that you should only place formula, milk or breast milk in bottles and avoid filling the child’s bottle with liquids such as sugar water, juice or soft drinks. They also recommend only providing a child with a clean pacifier if you use one, rather than dipping it in honey, sugar, or putting it in your mouth before giving it to the child. You should also encourage children to drink from a cup by the time they are one year old and discourage frequent or prolonged use of sippy cups. (ADA)
While all of these techniques in combination are effective at improving and maintaining dental health, one of the most protective solutions for preventing dental caries in children are sealants.
What is a sealant?
A dental sealant is a thin plastic coating applied to the chewing surface of teeth in order to prevent tooth decay and cavity development. According to the American Dental Association, “Sealants have been shown to reduce the risk of decay by nearly 80% in molars. In October 2016, the Centers for Disease Control released a report on the importance of sealants for school-aged children, of which only 43% of children ages 6-11 have. According to the CDC, “school-age children without sealants have almost three times more cavities than children with sealants.” (ADA)
IMAGE 1: DENTAL SEALANTS
Sahara Dental Summerlin. (2012-2018). Dental Sealants.
AxessPointe offers dental sealants to both adults and children. Anyone can benefit from receiving dental sealants, but the younger the patient, the better. Sealants work like a raincoat for your teeth. When cavity-causing bacteria that live in everyone’s mouth meet leftover food particles, they combine and react to produce cavities in your teeth. Sealants prevent these reactions from happening. Sealants protect teeth and prevent tooth decay, and can even be applied over existing cavities. (ADA)
One thing you might be wondering about sealants, what’s the process like? Will it be painful? Will it take hours? The answer is no! The process of applying sealants to teeth is quick and pain-free. “Your dentist will clean and dry your tooth before placing an acidic gel on your teeth. This gel roughs up your tooth surface so a strong bond will form between your tooth and the sealant. After a few seconds, your dentist will rinse off the gel and dry your tooth once again before applying the sealant onto the grooves of your tooth. Your dentist will then use a special blue light to harden the sealant.” (ADA)
The journey to good dental health is a fairly straightforward one, but achieving this goal takes persistence and consistency. Dental health is not something you achieve and are finished with, but a daily routine. Through the use of dental tools such as brushing, flossing, healthy diets and sealants, this routine is made easier.
Are you following all the steps for good dental health?
American Dental Association. (2018). Nutrition. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/nutrition
American Dental Association. (2018). Sealants. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/s/sealants
Defosse, R. (2018). When to Take a Child to a Dentist for the First Time. Retrieved February 26, from https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/life-stages/childrens-oral-care/when-to-take-a-child-to-a-dentist-for-the-first-time-0113
Delta Dental. (2016). When should your child first visit the dentist? It might be earlier than you think. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from https://www.deltadentalins.com/oral_health/first-visit-to-dentist.html
Mayo Clinic Stagg. (2016, May 03). Brush Up on Taking Care of Your Teeth. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20045536
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2006). Oral Health and Overall Health: Why a Healthy Mouth is Good for Your Body. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from https://www.colgateprofessional.com/patient-education/articles/why-a-healthy-mouth-is-good-for-your-body