Sending your kids back to school the healthy way

Here we are again, wondering what happened to summer and ushering our kids into another school year. We have a few tips for keeping your family healthy amidst all the chaos!

1. Help your child form good sleep habits. During the summer, schedules often go right out the window and kids are staying up later and sleeping in longer. Once school starts the abrupt change can be a difficult adjustment. Pediatricians recommend children get 8-10 hours of sleep every night, so keep that in mind when considering your kids’ new bedtime. Remember that screens (TV, phone, computer, tablet) emit a light that can disrupt the sleep rhythm of the brain making you feel less sleepy then you actually are. Make it a habit to turn electronics off a good hour before bedtime (phones should be charged outside the bedroom). Get your child — and your family — into habits that will make for healthy sleep all year round.

2. Get in a hand washing habit. We all know that with the start of a new school year comes the spread of illness. Each new school year parents are battling any number of viruses that come home with their kids. Teach your kids again about the importance of washing their hands, particularly before eating. Remember to have them refrain from touching their face with their hands and also make sure they aren’t putting school supplies in their mouths. Biting on a pencil can not only spread germs, but can potentially harm their teeth by chipping or cracking them.

3. Plan healthy lunches and snacks. Use the end of summer to talk with your child about healthy food they can bring to school. Try to avoid cavity causing snacks like crackers, cookies and candy or sugary drinks. Fruits, vegetables, cheese and nuts are good snack choices along with water to wash it all down. Choosing high protein low carb/sugar snacks can not only give them brain power and make them feel great, but will protect their dental health as well!

4. Make an appealing homework place, and decide on a routine. They should have a quiet, well-lit, pleasant place to do their homework. For younger children, it should be where you can easily supervise, but not necessarily in the middle of family chaos. For all ages, the homework place should involve a desk or table, and should not be near a television. Decide together when in the day your child will do homework (right after school, before dinner, after dinner, etc.) You can always change it up later if it doesn’t work out, but having both the space and the time in place on the first day of school gets things started on the right foot.

5. Plan activities — and downtime. It’s important that your child be active, so signing up for a team sport or other physical activity can be a good idea. At the very least it is crucial that kids have some sort of physical activity even if it’s a brief walk or bike ride. Kids need to form healthy habits of fitness, but also need a way to vent any pent up energy from the day. Schools are offering less recess time than ever before so it is important to keep our kids moving! As important as physical activity is, be sure that there is downtime every day too, as this is crucial for your child’s mental health. Your child needs time to relax and play no matter what their age. Every day there should be time that is unscheduled that your child can use in whatever way they want.

Here’s to another successful school year!

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Keep Smiling All Summer Long!

If you are like most families, during the summer months your schedule can get a little crazy! We wait all year for the warm weather activities that we love, but that can mean eating right and maintaining good oral hygiene goes to the bottom of the list. Here are a few tips that will help you protect your family’s oral health this summer.

Don’t forget to brush!
Brushing twice a day and flossing daily is as important in the summer as it is any other time of the year. With vacations, kids away at camp and lots of days spent on the go, don’t be surprised if you frequently need to remind your kids to brush and floss.
Now is a great time to buy new toothbrushes to replace the old, worn out or “germy” ones. In fact, tossing a few disposable tooth brushes into your hand bag along with some travel sized toothpaste is a convenient way to always be hygienically prepared, particularly if your kids are in orthodontics!

Schedule your check-ups early!
Parents tend to schedule dental checkups in August, right before school starts. Keep in mind our schedule can get backed up so it’s best to plan ahead and get your family in while your schedule (and ours) might be a little more flexible!

Keep your kitchen well stocked
Keep the summer from being a sugary free for all by investing in healthy snacks. It’s hard to limit snacking when the kids are home all day, but with the availability of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, you can stock the fridge with healthy options. Be sure to keep the fruits and veggies clean and ready to grab on the go. It’s much easier to keep your dental health in check when your family is reaching for blueberries and strawberries instead of candy and cookies. Be sure to swap out the sugary, acidic soft drinks, juices and energy drinks with bottled water.

Prevent Dental Emergencies
It wouldn’t be summer without lots of swimming, bike riding, sports and other playground activities. While these are great fun, they can occasionally result in a dental injury. Parents can prevent the worst by following these tips:
• Make sure your kids follow the “pool rules.” According to the Academy of General Dentistry, many of the summer oral injuries dentists treat are due to a pool accident. Running on slippery pool decks, diving into shallow waters or bumping the pool ledge with their mouth causes many children to either chip or knock a tooth loose.
• Wear protective mouth guards when playing any type of sport. They not only help protect your teeth from getting knocked out or broken, but many mouth guards offer a level of protection against concussion.

Have fun and keep smiling all summer!

March is National Nutrition Month

Making good health choices is encouraged year ‘round but March is the month the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has designated for focusing the public’s awareness on what they are eating.
The Academy points out that the foods you eat not only affect your weight and your health, but they have a direct effect on the health of your teeth and specifically on tooth decay. Bacteria rely on carbohydrates to thrive. Paying close attention to not only sweets but highly processed foods like crackers and sugary and acidic drinks can help save your teeth.
Instead, turn to foods that not only taste good but are good for your teeth too. Dairy products, like cheese, for example, provide the body with nutritional items that support tooth enamel. Foods high in protein feature phosphorus, a nutrient critical to oral health.
You can’t really go wrong by adding color to your diet, either. Fruits and vegetables make for a colorful plate and a healthy meal. Some acidic fruits like oranges or even tomatoes should be eaten in moderation because the acid can erode tooth enamel. It is better to include these foods in a meal instead of eating them by themselves.
Remember, good nutrition is something you should worry about all year long, not just when celebrating National Nutrition Month. March just serves as a reminder that eating right is a proactive step in managing your dental health.

Do you suffer from Dry Mouth? You are not alone!

Dry mouth, also known as Xerostomia, is associated with salivary gland hypofunction where there is a reduced amount of salivary output. Many people with this condition are un-aware that it means more than just mouth discomfort or bad breath. Saliva is essential to lubricate and protect our teeth, tongue and tissues. It aids in chewing, swallowing and digesting food and also protects our teeth from decay. Saliva is 98% water but the other 2% is made up of essential electrolytes, mucous, antibacterial components and various enzymes. When we aren’t producing an adequate amount of saliva to lubricate the mouth, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque we become more prone to cavities.

Many people are at risk for having dry mouth, but are unaware that it can create an unhealthy environment for your mouth. In many cases, people that suffer from dry mouth are experiencing a side effect from some common prescription medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, anti depressants and high blood pressure medications. It may also be a sign of a disease such as poorly controlled diabetes or other systemic conditions such as anxiety, stress or dehydration. As harmless as dry mouth may seem, it is not a condition to be overlooked. Some common problems with dry mouth include a burning sensation, problems speaking, difficulty swallowing, oral infections, gum disease, bad breath and tooth decay. A dry mouth also irritates the soft tissues in the mouth making them more susceptible to infection. Without the cleansing effect of saliva oral health problems become more common.

If you suffer from Dry Mouth there are ways to manage the ill effects and protect your teeth from suffering decay as a result of lack of saliva production.

• Drink water frequently and sip on water throughout the day.
• Suck on sugar free candy or chew sugar free gum, gum containing xylitol can help stimulate salivary flow while preventing cavities.
• Avoid mouth rinses that contain alcohol and avoid alcoholic beverages because they increase dry mouth. There are mouth rinses on the market that are made specifically for patients that suffer from Dry Mouth.
• Limit intake of salty and spicy foods
• Quit smoking
• Use a soft bristle toothbrush and brush your teeth at least twice a day or after every meal and use a toothpaste containing fluoride.
• Floss your teeth daily
• Most importantly, visit us at least twice a year to ensure your mouth is in good shape. If you are more prone to decay due to your dry mouth, catching and taking care of cavities early can prevent more costly and painful procedures down the road. To ensure maximum protection we may recommend a prescription toothpaste with a higher fluoride content to keep your teeth strong and aid in the prevention of cavities.

Back to School Smiles

It’s that time of year again! Parents everywhere have picked up school supplies, packed lunches and sent their little darlings off for another year of school. Did you remember to include a new toothbrush in that list of school supplies?

Continuing good oral health habits, like brushing and flossing twice a day does more than send your little one to school with minty fresh breath. Studies have shown that kids with healthy pain-free teeth have more success in school because they leave the classroom less and are able to concentrate on their studies and not their bothersome teeth.  Scary as it seems, tooth decay is now the No. 1 chronic infectious disease in children. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is five times more common in kids than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.
Parents should realize that a child’s mouth is a gateway for their entire body and overall health. If a child’s tooth decay goes untreated, the child is subject to many harmful infections.

The care of primary teeth is just as important as the care of permanent teeth, so parents should make sure their child’s first teeth are kept healthy. There are many ways that parents can ensure the best dental health of their kids:

  • Brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush; hard bristles can break down the teeth and gums and cause infection. Don’t forget the floss! Many companies make fun, kid friendly flossers now, making the whole process so much easier.
  • Make sure your child is drinking enough water; it contains small levels of fluoride, which protects teeth.
  • Don’t use bottles or sippy cups as a way to keep your child busy as these containers allow sugary drinks to attack the teeth from behind.
  • Choose healthy snacks for your kids. Fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses and nuts are best. Avoid sugary foods and even carbohydrates like crackers which can stick to the teeth giving plaque fuel for causing cavities.

The Bitter Truth About Our Sweet Tooth

As your dental health providers you have heard us talk to you about the effects of sugar on your teeth, but did you know that the negative effects of sugar go far beyond your mouth? We just read an interesting article in the August 2013 issue of  National Geographic Magazine written by Rich Cohen. Cohen tells us that as far back as 10,000 years ago, New Guinea Islanders domesticated sugar, chewing on the stem until the sweet elixir was released, using it as a tonic of sorts to cure all manner of ailments. Sugar slowly spread across the islands until around the year 500 AD when India began processing sugar as a powder. When sugar first spread to the west in the 1400’s it was so rare it was considered a spice and only consumed by nobility. The allure of the sweet plant was enough to entice Europeans to find new ways to produce their own supply and they went in search of tropical territories where sugar cane would thrive, thus changing Jamaica, Brazil, and Cuba into boom colonies with over 100,000 slaves churning out tons of sugar. By the mid 17th century, sugar had changed from a rare spice to a staple, consumed by every class of people. At that point in time people were consuming 4 pounds of sugar per year, but of course our appetite for sugar could not be satiated. Today the average american consumes over 77 pounds of sugar per person, per year! That is 22 teaspoons of sugar per day! Sugar is one of the major components in many, if not most, food and beverage products from obvious junk foods to so-called health foods, and even foods that aren’t considered a sweet.

We know that too much sugar is bad for us, so here are the top 5 reasons we believe it would be beneficial to cut back on sugar consumption.

1.  Sugar is bad for your heart

Research shows that a diet high in sugar is associated with a reduction in HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Further, according to the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on sugar, a high intake of added sugar increases the risk of high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, other risk factors for heart disease and stroke, as well as inflammation, which is also associated with heart disease.

2. Sugar contributes to weight gain

Many foods that are high in added sugar are also high in calories. Consuming too many calories is the primary cause of weight gain and obesity. In addition, added sugars provide calories but no nutrients. Sugar-laden foods, particularly those that lack fiber, can cause carb or sugar cravings that keep you eating nutrient-poor, high-calorie foods and perpetuating a cycle of overeating and weight gain. The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests drinking water instead of sugary beverages and limiting foods with added sugars as a means to promote health and healthy weight maintenance.

3. Sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes

Since consuming too much sugar can lead to weight gain, it can also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends limiting sugar intake and opting for artificial sweeteners as a way to satisfy your sweet tooth, curb cravings and control your blood sugar. Limiting your sugar intake and monitoring your calories can help prevent, as well as manage, type II diabetes.

4. Sugar drains your energy

That energy drink or specialty coffee may sound like the best solution to boost your energy, and you will get a surge of energy, but the high sugar content in these drinks is also going to lead to a drastic energy crash, creating an even lower energy low, once the sugar (and caffeine) is out of your system. You’ll end up more lethargic and even hungrier for something high in sugar or empty carbohydrates. Instead, choose whole foods with natural sugars, such as fruit, plain yogurt or even a raw trail mix for sustained energy.

And of course, nearest and dearest to our hearts….

5. Sugar is bad for your teeth

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), foods and beverages high in sugar can promote cavities and tooth decay. Sugar feeds the bacteria that produce acids that erode your tooth enamel. Frequent snacking or drinking of high-sugar items increases your risk of cavities and eventually dental disease because it repeatedly exposes your tooth enamel to these acids. The ADA suggests limiting foods with added sugars, brushing and flossing regularly and chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals to help prevent tooth decay.

Food for Thought

We’ve noticed this come up several times in the news recently, and while this week’s blog is not directly related to dentistry, we felt it was important information concerning our food supply.

 

According to a group of 150 scientists, that includes a former head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture is putting human health at risk and driving up medical costs. This group, along with a group of 50 farmers and ranchers who have opted out of antibiotic use, released statements back in Sept. 2012 calling on the FDA and Congress to work together to regulate the use of antibiotics in livestock. Both groups concluded that the overuse of antibiotics is contributing to a health crisis. Louise Slaughter, a New York Representative  joined in calling for regulation of animal agriculture’s use of non-therapeutic antibiotics. She said, “Every year, more than 100,000 Americans die from bacterial infections acquired in hospitals, and seventy percent of these infections are resistant to drugs commonly used to treat them. This abuse and overuse must stop.”

 

Donald Kennedy, former FDA commissioner  said: “There’s no question that routinely administering non-therapeutic doses of antibiotics to food animals contributes to antibiotic resistance.”  He stated that the FDA’s current  approach asking the drug industry to voluntarily stop selling antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feed, was not enough. Kennedy, who also served as editor-in-chief of Science magazine for eight years, said: “Unless it reaches the industry as a regulatory requirement it will not be taken seriously.” Three decades after the FDA determined that growth-promoting uses of antibiotics in agriculture were potentially harmful to human health, its own data shows that 80% of all antimicrobial drugs sold nationally are used in animal agriculture.

The scientists said that while the medical community has done a good job educating doctors and reducing prescriptions, the agriculture industry was lagging behind. While data linking antibiotic resistance to non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics is widely accepted, they are still added in massive quantities to animal feed to promote faster growth and to compensate for diseases caused by poor diet and overcrowded living conditions of the animals. While the doses the animals receive in their feed is considered to be a “low dose” , this can be more harmful in producing drug-resistant bacteria. Alexander Fleming warned after accepting his Nobel Prize in 1945 for his discovery of penicillin , “there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing the microbes to nonlethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.

We found this story about Russ Kremer, a Missouri hog farmer who caught a blood disease after being gored in the knee by one of his pigs. He was told by his doctor that he had the same antibiotic resistance as his pigs. His infection was resistant to six out of seven antibiotics used to treat it, Kremer said.

Kremer said he changed his practice when he found out the feed was responsible.  “I exterminated my herd, brought in wholesome feedstuff without antibiotics. In the last 23 years my pigs have been drug free, they have less than 1% mortality and I’ve saved $16,000.”