Orthodonist says: Braces can improve looks, oral health

With the school year at an end, a lot of kids are headed to summer camp, but some may also be headed to an orthodontist.

Braces and other orthodontic treatments can be a rite of passage for many children needing to correct “bad bites” or malocclusions, that is, teeth that are crowded or crooked.

An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. I urge parents to have their children come in for an orthodontic checkup by age 7 to help catch growth issues in time for ideal correction.

Today, more and more adults are seeking orthodontic treatment, too, to obtain the beautiful, healthy smile they’ve always wanted.

In some cases, your teeth may be straight, but your upper and lower jaws may not meet properly. These jaw or tooth alignment problems may be inherited or could result from injury, early or late tooth loss, or thumb sucking.

In the case of an abnormal bite, your dentist may recommend braces or another orthodontic treatment to straighten out your smile. Correcting the problem can create a nice-looking smile, but, more importantly, orthodontic treatment results in a healthier mouth.

Not correcting an abnormal bite could result in further oral health problems, including:

• Tooth decay.

• Gum disease.

• Tooth loss.

• Affected speech and/or chewing.

• Abnormal wear to tooth enamel.

• Jaw problems.

Straightening your teeth can be accomplished in different ways. The kind of orthodontic treatment recommended depends on a patient’s preference and the options provided by a dentist or orthodontist.

Traditional braces, which realign teeth by applying pressure, usually consist of small brackets cemented to your teeth and connected by a wire. The wire is periodically adjusted to gradually shift your teeth and jaw.

The brackets may be metal or tooth colored and may sometimes be placed behind your teeth. Removable aligners are another option for treating orthodontic problems.

Abnormal bites usually become noticeable between the ages of 6 and 12, and orthodontic treatment often begins between ages 8 and 14. Treatment that begins while a child is growing helps produce optimal results.

That doesn’t mean that adults can’t have braces. Healthy teeth can be orthodontically treated at any age.

Treatment plans will vary based on your situation, but most people are in treatment from one to three years. This is followed by wearing a retainer that holds teeth in their new positions.

Today’s braces are more comfortable than ever before. Newer techniques apply a constant, gentle force to move teeth and usually require fewer adjustments and less overall treatment time.

I advise patients to maintain a healthy and balanced diet while they have braces. Eating too many sugary foods with braces can lead to plaque buildup around your brackets that could permanently stain or damage your teeth.

Avoiding foods like popcorn, corn on the cob, sugary chewing gum, whole apples, and other sticky foods is also a good idea.




Tips to keep teeth stain-free

Stained teeth can get in the way of a great smile. Truth is, what people eat and drink has a big impact on the whiteness of their teeth. Although some foods and drinks stain teeth, others can help keep a smile bright.

Anything that leaves a mark on  hands or clothes can also stain teeth. Some favorites may be on this list including coffee, tea, soda, red and white wine, grape or cranberry juice, blueberries, beets, soy sauce and tomato sauce.

People can still enjoy these foods, but it’s a good idea to brush or rinse their mouth thoroughly afterwards.

Surprise; some common fruits and vegetables scrub teeth gently while people chew them. They also help make saliva, which counteracts acid and cleans a mouth. Stain-preventing fruits and vegetables include apples, carrots, celery and cauliflower. Hard cheeses also give teeth a scrub.

Other ways to keep teeth white are drink with a straw. When drinking soda, juice, or iced coffee or tea, using a straw helps keep the liquid away from the visible front surfaces of teeth.

Brush, floss and rinse. Plaque makes teeth sticky and gives stains something to hold on to. Brush twice daily, floss and use an antibacterial mouth rinse twice a day, that will help fight plaque, making teeth less likely to stain.

Get teeth professionally cleaned. At least twice a year, go to a dental hygienist for a thorough cleaning. Clean teeth look brighter. Don’t smoke. Whether people chew it or smoke it, tobacco stains teeth.

When to whiten

Still seeing stains? There are other options. Bleaching can be a good way to brighten teeth. Tooth whitening works well on teeth that are yellow, but teeth that are brown or gray often have problems that bleach can’t fix.

And while people can re-whiten if stains return, overdoing it can permanently damage the outer surface of your teeth, called enamel. Read the label and use the products correctly.

Talk with a dentist to find out if tooth whitening is a good idea. If so, the following options to choose from. At-home whitening kits can be purchased at a local drugstore. Keep in mind that teeth may become sensitive, a side effect that usually goes away after the bleaching period is over. If gums become irritated, talk with a dentist.

Some toothpastes and mouth rinses help whiten teeth. Follow the instructions on the label. Some people develop sensitive teeth if they use whitening toothpastes.

If people have their teeth bleached at a dentist’s office, it may take one or more visits. The dentist will put a protective gel or rubber shield on the gums and then apply a bleaching agent to teeth. They may use lasers or lights to enhance the whitening process.

Proper tooth care can help keep teeth bright. So eat, drink, be merry and brush teeth regularly.



Oral health affects personal well-being

More than 164 million work hours are lost each year because of dental health problems. A recent Delta Dental Oral Health and Wellbeing Survey indicates that about one in six Americans (16 percent) miss work because of oral health issues.

The survey also showed that more than one in four Americans (27 percent) say they have oral health issues that they’d like to address, but often are prohibited by their inability to pay for the work (cited by 62 percent of those with unresolved issues).

Dental care is directly connected to our overall well-being and productivity; according to a U.S. surgeon general’s report, ignoring oral health can lead to needless pain and suffering, causing devastating complications. The financial and social costs of poor oral health significantly diminish quality of life and even burden society.

Dental coverage is a significant factor: Nearly eight out of 10 Americans (78 percent) with dental coverage visit the dentist at least once a year, versus only about half (52 percent) of those who don’t have coverage. The connection between dental coverage and dental visits isn’t surprising, but the numbers demonstrate a stark contrast — Americans with coverage are more likely to receive preventive care.

Many Americans don’t realize that affordable dental coverage is available for individuals and small businesses. In fact, because the Affordable Care Act doesn’t mandate dental coverage among adults, we are seeing more and more coverage options. Individuals can enroll any time for dental coverage in this country and they don’t need to wait for next year’s open enrollment.

Prevention and coverage are the keys to success. Americans who go to the dentist at least once a year are 22 percent more likely to report their overall physical and emotional health as good or better, compared to those who seldom visit the dentist.

Prevention also promotes smiles. A healthy smile represents happiness and confidence, and has become a requirement for success in business and careers. In a recent interview, Malcolm Gladwell, author of “David and Goliath” and “The Tipping Point” said, “teeth are becoming the new benchmark of inequality.” According to Gladwell, those with bad teeth also have less chance of success because they often are denied opportunities for career advancement.

Providing employees elective dental insurance has become one of the most desired benefits. According to a survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 77 percent of workers report benefits offered by prospective employers affect their decision to accept or reject a job.

As employers, it’s essential we employ smiling, productive and satisfied employees.



Beware – your dog could give you deadly antibiotic-resistant infections!


A dog may be a man’s best friend. But may not be very safe for you.

Next time you plan to give your dog or cat a smooch, think again. Pets could transmit antibiotic-resistant infections to humans — particularly urinary tract infections, researchers contend. ‘In a new study, we will be looking at the risks pets may pose in the transmission of these bacterial diseases that have been identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a huge and growing public issue,’ explained lead researcher Nigel French, professor at Massey University in New Zealand.

‘These resistant infections have been found in most household pets and the bacteria is spread by fluids and faeces,’ he added. ‘Animals clean their backside by licking it, so they can get faecal contamination in their mouth and then lick humans. That is how the infection could be transmitted,’ French emphasised. ‘It underlines what most people already know – you should not let your dog lick your face,’ he added.

If the dog licks your hands, immediately wash your hands afterwards. Previous research has suggested that people who let their dogs lick their mouths could catch gum disease from the pets. Left untreated, gum disease can turn into periodontitis, an inflammatory disease of the mouth tissue, according to a report published in the Archives of Oral Biology.




The Health Site

Get the occasional halitosis? 10 tips to taming dragon breath

No matter how fastidious you are about oral hygiene, most of us experience an occasional bout of halitosis (the scientific term for “you need a mint”). Sure, it’s embarrassing and awkward, but it’s usually temporary. “In most cases, the odor is caused by bacteria or decaying bits of food left behind on the teeth, gums and tongue,” says Dr. Guy Hanson, spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry and President at Idaho Dental Wellness Center.

In warm weather, your chances of dehydration are higher. And dehydration could mean less saliva which, according to the American Dental Association, you need to wash away all the bacteria and food.

“But there’s a lot you can do to keep your mouth healthy and control odors.” Here’s how to keep your breath smelling as fresh as a summer’s breeze:

Do a breath check
If you’re too embarrassed to ask someone if your breath smells bad, try this quick test: Wash your hands, then use a finger to rub an area toward the back of your tongue. Put the saliva on the back of your hand, let it dry and take a sniff. “If you detect no odor, you’re kissable,” says Hanson.

Know which odors linger
Even if you’ve brushed and flossed, odors from pungent foods such as onions, garlic and coffee may be detected on your breath up to 72 hours after digestion; it depends on your individual body chemistry. So think twice about that garlicky pasta dinner if you have a job interview (or hot date) the next day!

Get a professional cleaning
“You can’t remove all the plaque that builds up on teeth yourself,” says Dr. Alice Boghosian, consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. “Plaque contains bacteria, which lead to bad breath and gum disease.” To keep your mouth healthy and odor-free, most people need cleanings and checkups at least twice a year, though some people benefit from more frequent visits (your dentist can advise what’s best for you).

Brush better
Many of us aren’t thorough, says Boghosian. For starters, brush twice a day for about two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled brush (so you don’t wear down your enamel) with a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste. Hold the brush at an angle, making small circles. Brush all tooth surfaces — top, inside and outside. Use the brush to gently scrape down your tongue, which also harbors bacteria. An electric brush is fine, if it’s more convenient.

Floss every day
Don’t get lazy! You need to floss no matter how boring it is. “Flossing is the only way to get to bacteria in places where your toothbrush can’t reach,” says Hanson. Curve the floss into a C-shape and slide it against each tooth with an up-and-down and back-and-forth motion. If holding floss feels awkward, use pre-threaded floss holders, interdental picks or electric flossers.

Swish, if you wish
It’s fine to use a mouth rinse after brushing and flossing as a finishing touch to your routine, though be aware that it’s not a cure for bad breath. “It’s only a temporary fix,” says Hanson. “If you need to use it all the time, you should see your dentist to identify the underlying cause of mouth odor.”

Chew gum
Chewing stimulates the flow of saliva, which washes away food particles and bacteria, but stick with sugar-free varieties. “Products that contain sugar make bad breath worse because the bacteria feed on the sugars in the gum,” says Hanson. For bonus points with your dentist, look for those that contain xylitol, a sugar-free ingredient which inhibits the growth of cavity-causing bacteria.

Deal with dry mouth
If you have a condition called dry mouth, due to inadequate saliva flow, you’re more likely to have bad breath. Dry mouth is caused by many common medications such as antihistamines or decongestants, chemotherapy, autoimmune disorders or if you breath through your mouth, which may happen if you snore or if you have a cold or allergies that cause nasal stuffiness. Drink more water, especially after eating, avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can be drying, use mouth rinses that don’t contain alcohol and ask your dentist about prescription medications and oral lubricants.

Quit smoking
Add it to the list of reasons to quit: “Tobacco leaves chemicals in your mouth that contribute to bad breath,” says Boghosian. You’re also more likely to suffer from gum disease and more at risk for developing oral cancer if you smoke.

Get a checkup
If you’ve already seen your dentist and are practicing good dental habits, it’s time to see your doctor, says Boghosian. Many common health conditions can cause bad breath including sinus infections, post nasal drip from allergies, gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) and some kidney and liver diseases. Treating the underlying cause is the best way to feel better and have kissing-sweet breath.



Nutrition Tips for Summer

Another school year has come to an end but that does not mean that learning has to take a vacation; especially in the area of nutrition education. With kids home for the summer no doubt your grocery bill will see a noticeable increase. It would be easy to fall into the trap of stocking up on the many processed foods on the market and feeding these to your busy family. But summer is a great time to focus on the “Why, When, Where, and How” as it relates to nutrition education.
Food is a source of energy. Choosing healthy foods provides the energy to grow and play, and provides the building blocks of a strong, healthy body that aids in the growth and development of young children. Good nutrition habits can potentially increase academic success and decrease health care cost in the future.
It is important to teach children about healthy foods and their health benefits. When children learn these lessons at a young age, they are more likely to make healthier food choices throughout their adult life. As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthy eating reduces risk for obesity, dental caries, and several diseases that can lead to death such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Anytime can be a great time to incorporate nutrition education, such as mealtime, story time, and play time. Parents can use every opportunity to teach children about making nutritious food choices.
Nutrition education can occur at any location. Planting and caring for a garden together with kids is a wonderful learning experience. As fresh vegetables ripen, let children get involved in preparing recipes using the produce. Invite children to experience new foods through taste testing and preparing simple snacks. The more children are exposed to healthy foods, the more likely they are to try them.



Boil, Soak or Pitch It? 4 Tips for a Clean Toothbrush

People swear by all sorts of folk wisdom when it comes to keeping a clean toothbrush. Some run it through the dishwasher. Others soak the head in mouthwash or effervescent denture cleaner. Still others freeze it, boil it or invest in a pricey ultraviolet toothbrush “sanitizer.”

But here’s the bottom line from an expert: “None of that is necessary,” says dentist Karyn Kahn, DDS. “I suggest just rinsing it in good, hot water.”

The reason, Dr. Kahn says, is that you have a natural flora of bacteria living in your mouth that’s necessary for a healthy environment. It is not necessary to try to completely remove these from your toothbrush. In its recommendation about toothbrush care, the American Dental Association (ADA) cites studies that have found no evidence of negative oral health effects from normal bacteria on a toothbrush.

“If you don’t have that bacteria, that’s when opportunist microorganisms like yeast and fungi take over,” Dr. Kahn says. “You want a certain amount of natural bacteria in your mouth (just not around the teeth or gum tissue).” Instead of trying to sterilize your toothbrush, make a habit of replacing it regularly, she says.

Here’s Dr. Kahn’s other advice for keeping a clean and effective toothbrush:

  1. Use your eyes to protect your teeth. “When you can visually see discoloration, buildup or matting of the bristles, it’s time to change the toothbrush,” says Dr. Kahn. “It should look clean and straight.” Rinse well to dislodge any chunks of residual toothpaste.
  2. When in doubt, throw it out. The suggestions on when to replace a toothbrush vary according to manufacturer. Keep it easy and follow the ADA guidelines — replace it every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles become frayed. If you have a fungal, yeast or viral infection in your mouth, replace your brush at the beginning of treatment and again at the end.
  3. Never share a toothbrush. Your mouth needs a healthy flora of its own bacteria, but it’s not good to introduce bacteria from someone else. That’s why Dr. Kahn says you should never share a toothbrush, especially with your children. “That’s when they are acquiring their normal flora,” she says.
  4. Give it lots of fresh air. Store your toothbrush in an open-air holder, not in a dirty cup, drawer or travel case. That can promote the growth of mold or bacteria that isn’t natural to your mouth, leading to mouth diseases like gingivitis. “If you have any question about the effectiveness of your toothbrush, just get a new one,” advises Dr. Kahn.