Lifestyle tips for healthy teeth

Taking care of your general health as well as your teeth is the key to making the most of your smile.

Image Via NHS

Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing them daily and having regular check-ups with a dentist can help keep your teeth healthy. But diet, smoking and drinking alcohol also have an effect on dental health.

A healthy diet

What you eat and drink can cause tooth decay, so a healthy diet is important for your teeth. A healthy diet contains foods from different groups, including fruit and vegetables, starchy foods (rice, pasta, bread and potatoes), some protein-rich food (such as fish, meat, eggs and lentils) and some dairy foods.

Find out more about how to eat a balanced diet.


Limiting the amount of sugar you eat and drink is important to prevent tooth decay. Have sugary food and drink only at mealtimes and don’t eat sugary snacks between meals.

Most of the sugars we eat and drink are contained in processed and ready-made food and drinks. These include:

  • sweets, chocolate, cakes and biscuits
  • buns, pastries and fruit pies
  • sponge puddings and other puddings
  • table sugar added to food or drinks, such as tea
  • sugary breakfast cereals
  • jams, marmalades and honey
  • ice cream
  • dried fruit or fruit in syrup
  • syrups and sweet sauces
  • sugary drinks, including soft drinks, fizzy drinks, milk drinks and alcoholic drinks
  • fruit juice

A glass of fruit juice counts towards your five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but it also contains sugar. When you have sugary food or drink with a meal, it can be less damaging to your teeth than if you eat or drink it on its own. Try to drink fruit juice only at mealtimes.


Smokers’ teeth

Smoking can prevent you from having gleaming, healthy teeth. Smoking turns your teeth yellow, causes bad breath and increases your risk of gum disease, breathing problems and lung cancer.

If you smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day, you’re six times more likely to develop mouth cancer than someone who doesn’t smoke. So giving up smoking is important if you want to look and feel better.

Find advice on how to stop smoking.


Alcohol and tooth decay

Excessive consumption of alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of developing mouth cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, 75-80% of mouth cancer patients say they frequently drink alcohol.

Alcohol can also erode the enamel on the outside of your teeth, leading to decay. If this happens, you may need to go to the dentist for a filling.

Read more about how to cut down on drinking.

A whiter smile

If you want to keep your teeth as white as possible, try cutting out substances that can stain them. Wine, cigarette smoke, tea and coffee can all discolour teeth. Keep these to a minimum or cut them out completely to stop your teeth from becoming stained.




Family Time: Tips for new moms going back to work


Going back to work for new moms can be challenging. Learning to balance work and family while facing many new stressors can be overwhelming.

Jill Smokler, author of the New York Times bestselling book “Confessions of a Scary Mommy” and “Motherhood Comes Naturally (and Other Vicious Lies),” shares tips and tricks on how new moms can acclimate back into to the working world.

* Plan ahead: After working a full day and driving to daycare to pick up your baby, the last thing you’re going to feel like doing is cooking dinner. My advice is to embrace the wonder of the crockpot by letting the machine fill your home with the scent of a freshly cooked meal while you’re miles away at work. Another time-saving tip is to lay out all your clothes for the week on Sunday to avoid that moment of tearing apart your closet when you should already be in the car. Also, always charge your cellphone overnight.

* Celebrate the benefits: No, not the dental and vision plans, silly – the benefits you’ve been missing the last few months: Having a conversation that doesn’t revolve around the consistency or color of poop, being able to go to an actual restaurant over your lunch break, writing TGIF as your Facebook status update and appreciating that you know what day it is.

* Reacquaint yourself with adult conversation before you head back to work: After months alone with a newborn, it’s natural to forget how to interact with adults on a daily basis. Practice conversing with adults other than your spouse a few weeks prior to your return to work. Keep in mind not everyone can read your mind or understand that irrational screaming simply means you’re craving a hug.

* Go shopping: Chances are you won’t be fitting perfectly into your pre-pregnancy wardrobe by the time you head back to work, leaving you with two choices: 1. Rock the maternity outfits your co-workers saw you in all those months ago or 2. Wear your mom uniform of stained, black yoga pants and an oversized shirt to the office. However, there is a third choice and that is to go shopping. Getting new clothes that actually fit will do wonders for your self-esteem. Just be sure to check your shoulders before you leave the house, as spit up can be more prominent on a black business suit than a ratty old T-shirt.

* Give yourself a break: Whether you’re missing your baby, not missing your baby or missing one of your baby’s milestones, allow yourself to have an outburst every now and then. Just remember to pick yourself up and get back to work. Feeling guilty is a useless emotion that isn’t going to help you focus on your job or get you home sooner to cuddle that baby of yours.


Dental hygiene tips for parents

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Maria Pallares, a dental hygienist with the Naval Branch Health Clinic at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, offers the following tips for parents of young children.


  • Teach children how to brush their teeth.
  • Treat baby teeth like adult teeth; avoid thinking “they’re baby teeth, they will fall out eventually.” Children’s teeth that are diseased hurt as much as adults’ teeth do, and the bad habits that damaged them will damage adult teeth as well.
  • Drink water instead of soda or sugary sports drinks and energy drinks.
  • Consume dairy products to strengthen teeth and bones and to neutralize acidity in the mouth, which can lead to tooth decay (cavities).
  • Eat apples, other hard fruits and raw vegetables to stimulate saliva flow and keep teeth rinsed.
  • Take your child to the dentist before his or her first birthday.

Do not:

  • Put a baby to bed with a bottle; not only is it a choking hazard, but the liquid constantly bathes the teeth, which can lead to tooth decay.
  • Give a bottle to a child older than 1.
  • Encourage prolonged use of a sippy cup.
  • Feed your child sticky foods, like sticky candy or dried fruits, which can promote tooth decay.

Let your children brush their teeth too hard, as it removes enamel over time. “Think of your teeth as your car with a brand new coat of paint,” Pallares said. “Your car gets muddy. Do you scrub really hard to get it off? No, because it will remove the paint over time. While you can repaint your car, once you lose the enamel off your teeth, that’s it — it cannot grow back.”

Read more:

Swishing With Oil for Oral Health: Not Recommended

Coconut oil (


The Internet’s new quasi-health obsession is actually very old. Oil pulling—swishing oil  (coconut and sesame seem popular, preferably unrefined) around in your mouth for 10 to 20 minutes—is an oral health practice that has been done in India for years and years. It’s mentioned in the Charaka Samhita, one of the key texts of the Indian traditional medicine known as Ayurveda.

It’s also mentioned by kooky celebrity darling Shailene Woodley, star of the upcoming films Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, in an interview for beauty website Into the Gloss. In between recommending eating clay to “clean heavy metals out of your body” and extolling the virtues of getting sunlight on your nether regions, the natural medicine enthusiast says:

You can do something called ‘oil pulling’ where you swish coconut or sesame oil in your mouth when you wake up and spit it out. It’s amazing! It really makes your teeth whiter, because the plaque on your teeth is not water soluble, it’s fat-soluble. So the lipids have to dissolve in fats, which is why oil works in your mouth.

But Robert J. Collins, a clinical professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine says there is no evidence that plaque is fat-soluble.

“Even if it was, it doesn’t mean that it would disrupt the plaque,” he says. “We’re learning more every year how sophisticated those colonies are.” The only things we know of that work to remove plaque are chemical (like Listerine) or mechanical (the tooth-scraping you go through at the dentist’s office).

A Google search for “oil pulling” brings up more than two million results, many from the past few weeks. This late February post on the blog Fashionlush,received around 800 comments. The main claims being bandied about are that the practice cleans and whitens your teeth, helps with bad breath, and eases jaw pain. More dubious are the assertions that it cures diabetes, hangovers, acne, and all manner of other bodily ills. (A good rule to live by, I think, is not to trust anything that claims to get rid of “toxins,” especially if it does not specify what these toxins are. “We have these magic organs called kidneys and livers and [detoxifying] is what they do,” Collins says. “We don’t necessarily need to be swishing things around in our mouth.”)

There have been a handful of studies on the practice (published in Indian journals, it’s worth noting) that found it to be equally or nearly as effective as mouthwash in reducing halitosis, plaque-induced gingivitis, and the presence of streptococcus mutans, a bacteria that contributes to tooth decay. But these studies had very small sample sizes—20 people total—which makes them, Collins says, “one step away from case studies.”

When I contacted the American Dental Association, I was told it could not comment on the practice “because additional research is needed.” The organization pointed me to its statement on “unconventional dentistry,” which reads in part:

The ADA… supports those diagnostic and treatment approaches that allow both patient and dentist to make informed choices among safe and effective options. The provision of dental care should be based on sound scientific principles and demonstrated clinical safety and effectiveness.

Oil pulling is far from a sound scientific principle. Collins says that, in his opinion, there’s no harm in it (though if you swallow it, he posits you might have some gastrointestinal issues), but neither is there any solid evidence of benefits.

“From a public health point of view, we certainly do not want to encourage people to use things that, while they may be harmless, we have no evidence that they work,” Collins says. “It’s kind of like chiropractic. If somebody feels that they can go to the chiropractor, get a back adjustment, and it makes them feel better, I’m okay with that. If people start selling chiropractic as a mechanism to cure cancer then I have a problem with that.”

Basically, if you feel that swishing oil between your teeth for 20 minutes a day is a good use of your time, it probably can’t hurt you. But don’t use it as an alternative to brushing your teeth, and certainly don’t expect it to cure any real conditions. No matter what the movie stars say.



The Atlantic

Event promotes dental care for those with disabilities

image Via The Star Phoenix

Getting good dental care for children with disabilities can be difficult.

An event held at the University of Saskatchewan is intended to play a small part in changing that.

“This population has a very hard time finding good care,” said Richard Andrews, a second-year U of S dentistry student.

Andrews and others organized Sharing Smiles Day on Saturday. Special needs patients and their families played basketball, got their faces painted and did other activities with dentistry students. They also learned proper tooth brushing and other hygiene tips.

Andrews, who is part of the group Oral Health, Total Health, said he became interested in special needs dentistry while job shadowing in Toronto.

He said physically and intellectually challenged patients often have other medical needs that are seen as more urgent. Dental care is often neglected.

These patients can often be more difficult to treat because of those conditions.

Dentists, for their part, can be hesitant to treat special needs patients, he said. Some don’t want the added difficulty, and some lack the confidence.

“There’s no reason for that. There’s no special equipment needed, no special education,” he said.

That’s why the event Saturday was just as important for the dental students as their patients.

“It’s all about breaking down those barriers,” Andrews said.

Lauren Hampton, a participant at the event, said she had a lot of fun Saturday and made some new friends. She said she’s aware of the importance of good dental care.

“Nobody wants to get cavities or gingivitis,” she said.



The StarPhoenix


Think you brush your teeth properly? Think again

Photo by Via Block


TORONTO – Watching people brush their teeth in movies or on TV can really irk Dr. Andrea Johnstone.

A Toronto-based periodontist with a gleaming smile, Johnstone says the technique on display is often the very approach dental professionals warn their patients not to use.

“They are generally doing the scrub-brush method of just back and forth scrubbing their teeth. Even sometimes on toothpaste commercials. It drives me nuts, actually,” she admits.

It’s an illustration of a common problem. Everyone thinks they know how to brush their teeth. Heck, it’s one of the first skills we learn in childhood, one we use – or should use – at least twice daily every day of life.

But many people don’t actually use the right tooth-brushing technique, which can lead to cavities, tartar buildup and gum disease.

So what are we doing wrong? The most common shortcomings relate to the motion used and the length of time we spend on each brushing session, experts say.

“The tendency is for people to be far too quick when they brush their teeth, to actually not take the 2 1/2 to three minutes that are necessary to get your teeth clean,” says Dr. Peter Doig, president of the Canadian Dental Association.

Some people go on autopilot when they put a toothbrush into their mouths. Up and down, or back and forth, they make a quick tour around their teeth, spit, rinse and are done with it.

Doig says in order to effectively remove plaque – the film of bacteria that can accumulate on teeth after eating foods containing sugars and starches – you need to concentrate. Every time, on every tooth.

Neither Doig nor Johnstone recommends a specific toothbrush. “It’s not the wand, it’s the magician,” Doig says. But both say you should always use a soft-bristled brush to safely remove the plaque without damaging the gums.

That area – where the tooth meets the gum – is a critical part of the tooth to focus on. That’s where plaque builds up. If it’s not removed, it forms into tartar, which normal brushing won’t remove.

“The goal is to get it before it hardens,” says Johnstone.

That’s because as tartar accumulates, it can go below the gum line, eroding the bone that holds the teeth in place. As the bacteria triggers recession of gums, more of the tooth’s root is exposed, amplifying the bone erosion problem.

To stop this process from even starting, Johnstone says you need to angle the bristles of your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle where the gum meets the tooth. Use a gentle, circular massaging motion to loosen the plaque, and then flick the brush upward (or downward, if you are working on the upper teeth) to move the plaque away.

“So basically it’s just kind of a wiggle at the gum line, and then swishing the plaque away from the gum line with their brush,” she says.

Easy does it.

“A lot of people think they need to scrub brush their teeth,” says Johnstone. “And then what can end up happening is then we start to see areas of gum recession. So they actually start to brush their gums away.

“We want to focus on removing the plaque gently and efficiently, but not removing the gums. Half my day I spend trying to transplant gums back onto people. … A lot of that could be avoided with proper tooth brushing.”

Doig says it’s important to remember to brush each tooth, and each exposed surface. People often do a good job of brushing the exterior of their front teeth, he says, but may spend too little time on the inside of each tooth – or the inside of the teeth in general.

People may also forget to brush their tongue, which should be part of the routine, he says. Tongues get coated with a lot of bacteria, which can be a cause of halitosis, or bad breath. Johnstone recommends tongue scrapers – small plastic devices that can be run over the surface of the tongue to remove that film. And yes, she knows treating your tongue can trigger a gag reflex.

“I find the tongue scrapers a little better for gaggers. But it can still make you gag. But you’ve got to get through it. It’s worth it for fresh breath.”

Johnstone and Doig offer some oral hygiene dos and don’ts:

  • Do brush at least twice a day. Brushing after every meal is better still.
  • Don’t hurry. You need to spend two to three minutes at brushing every time. Use a timer or pay attention to the timer feature of your electric toothbrush. Or brush for the duration of a song on the radio, Johnstone suggests.
  • Do use fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Do change your toothbrush every three months or so.
  • Don’t share a toothbrush.
  • Do floss, at least once a day. It is the only way to clean the surfaces between teeth. Floss before brushing.
  • Don’t use stiff-bristled brushes.
  • If you aren’t sure about your brushing technique, do ask your dentist or hygienist to show you how to do it properly.



H&R Block

Tips for Oral Hygiene

A better, more confident you begins every morning and ends every evening when you start and stick with a consistent oral hygiene routine. That routine, in addition to regular dentist’s office visits, helps develop not only strong teeth and gums, but also overall good health. You’ll feel good, look good, avoid unnecessary bills, and experience an improvement in many of your day-to-day social interactions. It’s easy once you understand the basic routines required to maintain good dental hygiene. Get started with some basic dental education and a thorough awareness of the steps that should and should not be taken toward great, long-term oral health.

Oral Hygiene Benefits

Daily cleaning of your teeth, gums and tongue, combined with annual check-ups, has a host of health benefits. Good oral hygiene wards off harmful bacteria and microbes that may cause tooth decay, bleeding gums, and oral infections. Proper oral hygiene is also important in helping you stay healthy, especially if you have risk factors such as diabetes and heart problems. Other than keeping associated diseases at bay, oral hygiene elevates a person’s sense of self-esteem. This is especially true for teenagers and adults who frequently interact with others at work or in social situations. Maintaining proper oral hygiene ensures that embarrassing conditions, such as plaque, tartar and more commonly, bad breath are not experienced. Keeping optimal oral hygiene lowers the need to treat dental problems that could otherwise be inexpensively prevented. For example, according to Kaiser Health News reports, dental costs make up approximately 20 percent of a child’s total health care expenses, and the costs are escalating rapidly.

Oral Hygiene for Kids

Enforcing good oral hygiene habits early in a child’s life is essential for his overall well-being. According to a 2007 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of cavities in children between the ages of two and five has escalated by 15 percent. Proper oral hygiene habits in kids must start as early as the child begins to bottle feed. This is when babies are prone to tooth decay resulting from liquids, such as sweetened milk. While baby teeth should be cleaned using a washcloth, young babies should eventually have their teeth and tongues brushed using soft brushes on a regular schedule. It is important for parents to teach children the proper way to brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste, to take them for regular dental check-ups, and to serve food that will maintain optimal health. Kids should eat foods that will strengthen their teeth, such as milk, cheese, and vegetables.

Oral Hygiene for Adults

Many adults experience significant dental problems that could be prevented through basic oral hygiene practices, like regular dentist appointments. For example, in 2009 alone, CDC data indicated that only 62 percent of researched adults visited the dentist. To maintain optimal oral health, adults should brush their teeth at least twice a day, preferably after each meal and before going to bed. Flossing is also an essential part of an adult’s daily oral hygiene regimen. Regular brushing and flossing can prevent unpleasant and embarrassing conditions, such as plaque and bad odor. However, over-brushing or flossing may result in mouth bruises and bleeding, which can lead to infections. Adults should visit their dentist regularly for routine check-ups or before purchasing over-the-counter medication.

Oral Hygiene Facts

Poor oral hygiene can increase your chances of developing heart disease. Professional teeth cleanings will reduce the bacteria that cause inflammation and eventually lead to heart disease (Veterans General Hospital in Taipei).

According to the American Dental Hygienists Association:

  • A major cause of tooth loss in children is cavities; while periodontal (gum) disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
  • Eating healthy snacks such as celery, carrots or apples helps clear away food loosely trapped in-between teeth.
  • The leading oral health problem for infants is baby bottle tooth decay, which can be caused when babies are given a bottle filled with sugary liquids, like milk or juice, when put to bed.

Oral Hygiene Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Roughly 78 percent of Americans have had at least one cavity by age 17.
  • 80 percent of the U.S. population has some form of periodontal (gum) disease.
  • In 2007, Americans made about 500 million visits to dentists and spent an estimated $98.6 billion on dental services.
  • Between 2005-2008, 16 percent of children ages 6-19 and 23 percent of adults 20-64 had untreated cavities.
  • Dental fluorosis (overexposure to fluoride) is higher in adolescents than in adults and highest among those aged 12–15.
  • Most adults show signs of periodontal or gingival diseases. Severe periodontal disease affects approximately 14 percent of adults aged 45-54.
  • 23 percent of 65-74 year olds have severe periodontal disease.
  • Men are more likely than women to have more severe dental diseases.
  • Oral cancer occurs twice as frequently in men as women.
  • Three out of four patients don’t change their toothbrush as often as is recommended. Toothbrushes should be changed every two to three months and after illnesses.

Oral hygiene greatly affects overall long-term health, and promotes a more confident you. When it comes to dental care, prevention through daily cleaning and regular visits to the dentist’s office is better not only for your health, but for your budget. That’s why it’s important for parents to play a key role in reinforcing smart oral hygiene habits. Kids are likely to follow in the footsteps of those who set positive examples and will carry those healthy habits through their own adult lives. Remember, whatever your age, it’s never too late to take a serious stand in keeping your teeth healthy and your smile confident.