HAVE YOU EVER HEARD of “Mountain Dew Mouth”? It’s what happens to our teeth when we drink too much soda. The term comes from rural Appalachia, where that particular drink has long been the carbonated beverage of choice and tooth decay is alarmingly common. But this doesn’t just happen in Appalachia, and Mountain Dew isn’t the only drink that contributes to tooth decay. Let’s learn what soda can do to your teeth.
When we eat or drink something with sugar in it, the sugar sticks to our teeth afterward. Sugar itself doesn’t do any damage to our oral health, but it is unfortunately the favorite food of the bacteria that lives in our mouths. These bacteria eat the sugar and then excrete acids that erode our tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay. They also cause inflammation that increase the risk of gum disease.
Any source of sugar can negatively impact oral health. Sugary drinks (including fruit juice, but especially soda) are particularly dangerous because they aren’t filling like solid food and are therefore easy to keep drinking.
So if sugar is the problem, then can’t we keep our teeth healthy by switching to diet soda instead of giving up carbonated beverages altogether? Diet soda is certainly an improvement, but sugar isn’t soda’s only threat to dental health. The other is acid. Sugar leads to tooth decay because oral bacteria eat sugar and excrete acid that erode tooth enamel. Soda cuts out the middle man and applies acid directly to the teeth.
Even diet sodas and carbonated water contain acid. The three types of acid commonly found in soda are citric, phosphoric, and carbonic. Any drink with citrus flavoring will have citric acid, many colas get their flavor from phosphoric acid, and carbonic acid is what makes these drinks fizzy in the first place.
Watch this great video, “Will Soda Really Destroy My Teeth?”
It would be best for your teeth to avoid soda and other sugary drinks entirely. If you can’t bring yourself to give up your favorite drink completely though, there are a few ways to enjoy it while protecting your teeth. A big one would be to only drink soda with a meal instead of sipping from a can or bottle throughout the day so that the sugar and acid aren’t sitting in your mouth for long periods.
You can also help balance your mouth’s pH and rinse away remaining sugar by drinking water after the soda. Finally, you can clean away the last traces of sugar and acid by brushing your teeth, but it’s a good idea to wait until the pH balance is back to normal before brushing, which takes about thirty minutes.
It is particularly important for children and people with braces to avoid overindulging in sugary drinks. Children have the highest risk of enamel erosion because their enamel isn’t yet fully developed, and braces plus a soda habit is a great way to end up with stained teeth when the braces come off.
Following these good habits will go a long way towards protecting your teeth against decay and erosion from the sugar and acid in soda. Still, don’t forget that your dentist is also an important part of the equation. Keep scheduling those visits every six months!
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Halloween is around the corner, which for most children means bags of free candy and a chance to build a stockpile of sweets for the winter. No surprise, Halloween can also present parents with a variety of health and safety challenges. “It’s OK to eat that candy on Halloween but it’s important to have a plan,” says ADA dentist Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty.
Here’s how you can help your family have a healthy Halloween and stay healthy year-round.
Eat Halloween candy (and other sugary foods) with meals or shortly after mealtime. Saliva production increases during meals. This helps cancel out acids produced by bacteria in your mouth and rinse away food particles.
Staying away from sweet snacks is another healthy Halloween tip. Snacking can increase your risk of cavities, and it’s double the trouble if you keep grabbing sugary treats from the candy bowl. ”Snacking on candy throughout the day is not ideal for your dental health or diet,” Dr. Ferraz-Dougherty says.
Avoid hard candy and other sweets that stay in your mouth for a long time. Aside from how often you snack, the length of time sugary food is in your mouth plays a role in tooth decay. Unless it is a sugar-free product, candies that stay in the mouth for a long period of time subject teeth to an increased risk for tooth decay.
Sticky candies cling to your teeth. The stickier candies, like taffy and gummy bears, take longer to get washed away by saliva, increasing the risk for tooth decay.
It’s tempting to keep that candy around, but your teeth will thank you if you limit your stash. “Have your family pick their favorites and donate the rest,” Dr. Ferraz-Dougherty says.
World of Smiles will once again offer our “Candy Exchange.” Bring in your leftover candy in exchange for a toy!! The program runs from November 1 through 10, during office hours. Your donated candy will go to our troops through Operation Gratitude.
Your body is like a complex machine. The foods you choose as fuel and how often you “fill up” affect your general health and that of your teeth and gums.
This includes soda, sports drinks and flavored waters. When teeth come in frequent contact with beverages that contain sugar, the risk of tooth decay is increased.
Happy Healthy Halloween from all of us at World of Smiles!!
A version of this article was published by the American Dental Association, http://bit.ly/1vvq6tS
For more tips and strategies checkout; Halloween Candy: Your Dental Health Survival Guide.
Many parents don’t realize how early oral care needs to start.
By Melinda Wenner Moyer
If you hear blood-curdling screams coming from my house at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m., don’t fret: I’m just brushing my 2-year-old’s teeth. It’s a traumatic endeavor for us both, and I admit that I’ve sometimes wondered: Is this really worth it? Baby teeth are just, like, temporary teeth, right?
Then I saw some statistics on cavities in young kids and spoke with a couple of pediatric dentists, and was surprised to discover that caring for your wee one’s teeth isn’t optional—it’s essential. So is taking kids to the dentist at a very young age. Don’t worry; you can learn from my mistakes, because I’ve been doing pretty much everything wrong.
Let’s start with the stats: Numbers of cavities among kids have been going down in general, but cavities in baby teeth have become more common over the past 20 years. Today, a whopping 60 percent of 5-year-olds have had at least one cavity; many have had five or even 10. Dental decay in kids isn’t just a nuisance—it can cause a lot of pain, and decayed teeth often have to be repaired or pulled using general anesthesia, which, as I’ve previously reported, isn’t risk-free. And when baby teeth are pulled, they can no longer do the important job of holding space for the budding permanent teeth—some of which don’t come in until age 12—so the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that dentists fit “space maintainers” in their stead when baby teeth are lost early. Cavities in baby teeth can also harm the permanent teeth directly, if the tissue in the central portion of the baby tooth gets infected.
There is good news, though: “Dental decay is preventable,” says AAPD president Jade Miller. When dentists see a cavity forming, they can actually reverse the process—which is in part why the organization recommends that parents bring their children to the dentist when they get their first tooth or by the time they turn 1, at the latest. (If these recommendations don’t mesh with what you’ve heard, that’s probably because the American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend the first dental visit by age 3. But since 2003, the AAP and the AAPD have both recommended this timeline.)
To understand how dentists work their magic, you first need to know how cavities are formed. Bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugar and carbohydrates your kids eat, releasing acid in response. This acid breaks down tooth enamel and leads to tooth decay, explaining why dentists aren’t fond of kids consuming candy and juice; sugary foods provide feasts for mouth bacteria and lead to a buildup of cavity-causing acid. (Whole fruit, though, is fine: Chewing it stimulates saliva production, which helps to keep teeth clean, and its fibrous texture stimulates the gums.)
One way pediatric dentists can reverse burgeoning cavities is by applying a fluoride varnish to kids’ teeth, which causes fluoride to be released when the pH of the tooth drops as a result of the acid. The fluoride then helps rebuild the tooth enamel. When I finally brought my daughter to a pediatric dentist last week—those statistics on cavities really rattled me!—he didn’t even try to clean her teeth, because (surprise!) she was so uncooperative. But he did apply a quick fluoride varnish. Fluoride from drinking water and toothpaste can also get incorporated into the tooth enamel itself as it grows, thereby protecting it from future decay.
Of course, pediatric dentists do more than just deal with cavities in young toddlers; they can determine whether kids are doing things that might put them at risk for future cavities. For instance, if you’re letting little Jaden take a bottle of milk or juice into the crib with him at night, that’s a red flag for future cavities, and a dentist would likely tell you to stop. (This is so common it has its own name: baby bottle tooth decay.) The dentist can also check kids for signs of bigger dental or jaw problems. I got a talking-to about my daughter’s pacifier use, which is causing her to develop a gap between her upper and lower teeth. He advised me to nip her pacifier and periodically trim it more, to make it less damaging and appealing and hopefully prompt her to stop reaching for it.
Infant visits also give dentists the chance to educate parents on what to expect during teething and how best to care for kids’ teeth. If I had taken my daughter in when she got her first tooth, I might not be suffering through daily tooth-brushing battles, because I would have been told to wipe her teeth with a washcloth each day as an infant (which I didn’t do) and to start brushing with a toothbrush at age 1 (didn’t do that either). These are habits that establish oral care as a routine early on, making kids more compliant when they hit the terrible twos. Other important advice you might not have heard: brush your kid’s teeth for them at least once a day until they turn 8 or 9—oops, my 5-year-old son has been brushing solo for at least a year!—because the fine motor skills that make for good brushing “don’t really develop until about the age when a child can begin to tie shoes or write in cursive,” Miller explains; and start flossing when your child’s teeth no longer have space between them, because then the toothbrush isn’t able to reach plaque and debris between the teeth. (Yup, cavities can form between teeth, too.)
OK, but what if you, like me, have a kid who just won’t let you near her pearly whites? Jessica Lee, a pediatric dentist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry, suggests experimenting with different types of toothbrushes—maybe little Anna would prefer an electronic toothbrush to a manual one, or vice versa. IPad apps like Brusheez, a brushing timer with characters and music, may also make the task more fun. Or, try letting your kid brush your teeth while you’re brushing hers. If you still can’t get in there for more than a few seconds, Lee suggests that you put a rice grain–size amount of fluoride toothpaste on the brush or your finger and at least just get a little bit of fluoride on her teeth. (Generally, a child shouldn’t use fluoride toothpaste until she knows not to swallow it, but it’s OK, Lee says, to use a tiny amount in this way.)
This article originally appeared on 7/29/16, http://slate.me/2av9Yc9
To schedule an appointment or for more information, please visit, www.visitworldofsmiles.com. We have two Portland area locations to serve you.
Snacking can increase your child’s cavity risk!
Dental professionals recommend that eating smaller, scheduled meals throughout the day can help prevent childhood obesity, but also tooth decay! Researchers now know that frequent snacking – or “grazing” – is becoming a major source of tooth decay, especially in children.
Teeth go through a healing process between meals as our saliva naturally remineralizes our teeth from the acidic attacks caused from normal eating. When kids snack on sticky foods such as crackers or fruit chews, the result is a constant attack on the teeth that breaks down the enamel and can quickly turn into cavities.
Here are some more things about snacking that might surprise you.
You may be thinking, “They’re just baby teeth.” But think again. Baby teeth are important! Baby teeth serve several important functions. They help children chew food and speak clearly. They also shape the face and guide permanent teeth into place. Here are some tips for keeping your kids’ baby teeth healthy and strong:
Cavities in children generally begin three ways: Bacteria, Sugar, and Hygiene.
From the time your children are toddlers, many families have found it helpful to keep crackers or other pre-packaged snack foods in the diaper bag, purse, or car for those longer-than-expected car rides or to help with hungry tummies in between meals. Unfortunately, the amount of sugar in most packaged snack items, combined with natural bacteria found in the mouth is a major cause of cavities in children. Gummy vitamins or sticky snacks (fruit leather, dried fruit, fruit snacks) tend to remain in the grooves of the teeth even after brushing which leads to cavities on your child’s molars (chewing teeth in the back).
Natural bacteria found in the mouth can pass from person to person. If mom or dad has an active cavity and they share food or utensils with their child, they can pass the decay back and forth. Bacteria that cause cavities is contagious (like sharing a cold) until treated.
Next time you come into World of Smiles, Pediatric Dentistry feel free to ask the dental staff about additional ways to prevent cavities, and to pick up information about the new SoniCare for Kids electric toothbrush. Education and prevention leads to a healthy smile and happy kids!
Dr. Staci Whitman and Dr. Michelle Stafford worked for nearly two years to bring World Of Smiles to North Portland. They seek to partner with families to provide education and motivation for healthy dental habits. The practice strives for excellent patient care with a holistic, integrative approach while offering innovative treatment options. Both Docs enjoy teaching families and other healthcare professionals the importance of prevention and laying a foundation of healthy dental practices from a young age. They advocate for infant and child oral health, have had extensive experience with patients of special needs, and are Board Certified Pediatric Dentists. Learn more about who your family will partner with at your next visit!