Smoking And Children’s Oral Health

AS PARENTS, IT IS CRITICAL to make sure our children and teenagers aren’t picking up a habit as harmful as smoking. The disease we usually think of when we hear “health risks of smoking” is lung cancer, but the damage smoking can cause isn’t limited to the lungs. A smoking habit can do a lot of harm to a child’s oral health as well, far beyond merely staining the teeth and causing bad breath. Let’s take a look at some of the more common ways this can happen.

Smoking Harms The Gums

Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, begins with inflammation of the gums. If untreated, it can lead to extensive damage to gum and supporting bone tissue, and it enables bacteria to spread from the mouth all through the bloodstream. Smoking introduces hundreds of toxins into the mouth, which not only doubles the risk of developing gum disease, it makes it harder to treat.

Whitening Of The Oral Mucosa

Stomatitis Nicotina, or smoker’s keratosis, is the inflammatory swelling of mucous glands in the mouth. This shows up as thick, whitish patches on the roof of the mouth. While it is usually not painful, smoker’s keratosis can be pre-cancerous.

Increased Risk Of Oral Cancer

A staggering 80 percent of people diagnosed with oral cancer are smokers. Oral cancer affects the lips, tongue, cheeks, and throat. Early symptoms include persistent mouth sores or pain, unusual white patches in the mouth, difficulty chewing or swallowing, numbness, swelling, and a sensation of something caught in the throat that won’t go away. Because many of these symptoms can be caught early at a regular dental exam, the dentist is your first line of defense against oral cancer.

Why Do Children Start Smoking?

If smoking is so unhealthy, then why do children and teens start doing it? Most often, they want to seem more grown up. Children are particularly likely to start smoking if they have a parent or relative they look up to who smokes, but it could also be because of peer pressure, pop culture, or defiance.

Even with everything they hear about the negative effects of smoking, children and teens don’t always believe those consequences will affect them personally, which is why it’s so important to talk to children about the effects of smoking to help kick the habit before it even starts.

Breaking The Habit

The good news is that smoking is the most preventable cause of all of these dental health problems, because we can either help our children quit smoking or help them decide never to start. Even someone with a long history of smoking can significantly reduce their risk of health complications by quitting, so don’t assume there’s nothing to be gained by kicking the habit.

Fight For Your Child’s Dental Health

If you want help to quit smoking, whether for yourself or your child, there are resources all around you. Support from friends, family, and even counselors can be the best help in quitting. You can also check out the CDC’s website for tips and information. As dental care specialists, we care deeply about your child’s health, and whether or not they’re smoking, we encourage you to schedule a dental exam for them so that we can make sure their mouth is staying healthy!

We care about the overall health of all our patients!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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.

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Alternative Ways To Get Calcium In Your Diet

CALCIUM AND MILK go together like fluoride and toothpaste. Without the former, it can be hard to find the latter. And, like fluoride, calcium is essential to our oral health.

How Calcium Benefits Your Oral Health

We all know that calcium is the main component of our teeth and jaw bones, but our mouths are also made up of gum tissue, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. Calcium is important for these things as well because it helps them function as they should.

How Much Calcium Do We Need?

The range of calcium intake recommended for the average person on a daily basis is between 1000-1300mg from ages four to 70+ yrs. Children younger than four need about 700mg or less. The numbers vary based on gender and age.

Getting less than 500mg of calcium a day puts you at greater risk of developing gum disease, and the scary thing is that most people don’t meet their daily recommendation. Take a look at the foods you’re eating and make sure you’re including at least 800mg of daily calcium to keep your teeth and oral health in great shape!

 Non-dairy Calcium Sources

Most people can get their daily calcium from milk and other dairy products, but some don’t have that option. Luckily, there are many alternative sources of this crucial mineral, and we’ve made a list of them to help out our dairy-averse patients.

  • Canned fish with the bones in. The bones of small, canned fish are an excellent source of calcium, and they’re soft enough to eat! It’s up to you whether you eat them straight from the can or mix them into a larger meal.
  • Dark leafy greens. Starting at 180mg and reaching about 350mg, kale, spinach and collard greens are the three leafy greens with the highest calcium content.
  • Beans and black-eyed peas. Legumes such as beans and black-eyed peas contain an impressive amount of calcium, with 350mg to 515mg in just one cup!
  • Fortified drinks. Fortified orange juice contains around 1500mg and soy milk has 340mg per cup.
  • Tofu. Most tofu has added calcium, giving it about 860mg per half cup, but you’ll still get between 100-200mg per serving with no calcium added!
  • Broccoli and broccoli rabe. Broccoli rabe (rob) has about 80mg of calcium per 2/3-cup serving and broccoli has about 100mg per 2cup serving.
  • Edamame. With 98mg in just one cup of cooked edamame, it’s a good source of calcium as well as protein!
  • Almonds. Out of all the nuts, almonds contain the highest level of calcium, with 8% of the recommended daily intake in a single ounce.
  • Dried Figs. Figs have a sweet, dessert-like flavor, so eating the half cup it takes to get the calcium from them will feel like indulging in a treat!

    We Can Help

    If you think you may be prone to gum disease or have further questions about how you can improve your daily calcium intake, we’d love to talk to you about it, so schedule a visit with us today!

    We love helping our patients keep their teeth healthy and strong!

    Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.  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.

Your Child’s First Loose Tooth

WE ALL REMEMBER what it was like to be children with loose teeth. For some, this was a pretty stressful time, while others found ways to speed up the process so they could get those Tooth Fairy payouts faster.

No matter what, though, the prospect of losing that first tooth is new territory for every child, and it can seem very strange and frightening to them. That’s why we’re here to help you calm your child’s nerves as they approach this milestone.

Perspective: This Is A Rite Of Passage

One of the top priorities of young children is proving to everyone around them that they’re “one of the big kids.” They’re growing taller, they can tie their own shoelaces, and they’re learning new things every day at school. Few things symbolize maturity better to kindergarteners and first graders than a gap-toothed smile.

A great way to help your child look forward to losing that first wiggly tooth, then, is to help them focus on what an important rite of passage it is and how grown-up they’ll feel after the tooth comes out.

Parental Dos And Don’ts Of Wiggly Teeth

Even when your child has the right attitude and is excited to gain Big Kid status by losing a tooth, it can still seem scary. Perhaps another child or an obnoxious uncle has filled their imagination with horror stories about the pain of losing teeth. You can ease their fears and make the experience more positive by following a few tips:

  • Don’t use pliers or other scary tools, especially if the tooth is barely loose.
  • Encourage your child to gently wiggle the loose tooth on their own with either a clean finger, their tongue, or a tissue.
  • Wait for your child to ask for your help pulling the tooth instead of forcing the issue.

You can also help them feel less scared by showing them this video of a brave little girl losing her first tooth with a smile:

Incentivize It!

There are many ways parents can reward their children for successfully losing their first tooth. The Tooth Fairy is a particularly popular one, with different versions of the tradition practiced all across the world.

Other families reward their children with tasty treats like ice cream or a new toy befitting a child who just became a big boy or girl. If you’re looking for a more creative way to reward your child, just scroll through a few list articles until something strikes your fancy!

We Can’t Wait To See You!

After talking to your child, if they’re still worried about their loose teeth, bring them in to see us! We love helping children get over their fears of losing teeth. Other reasons to come to us over loose teeth are if the tooth has been loose for a while and doesn’t seem to want to come out, or if your child’s teeth aren’t becoming loose when they should.

As a team, we wish you and your child the best of luck!

Top image by Flickr user DSC_3020 used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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.

How Diabetes Affects Oral Health

THE AMERICAN DIABETES ASSOCIATION estimates that 23.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes (whether it be type 1, type 2, or gestational). At least another 7 million remain undiagnosed, and that doesn’t include the additional millions who are considered pre-diabetic. But what does diabetes have to do with oral health? Unfortunately, quite a lot.

Diabetes And Gum Disease

Diabetes is a chronic disease that either means the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin (type 1) or that the body doesn’t use it effectively (type 2 and gestational), both of which cause elevated blood glucose. The most serious impact elevated blood glucose has on oral health is that it simultaneously weakens the immune system and provides more food for the bacteria that attack teeth and gums.

This two-pronged attack is why 22% of diabetics also have gum disease, whether in the early stages of inflammation (gingivitis) or in the advanced stages (periodontitis) that threaten the teeth, gums, and supporting bone. The bacteria that causes gum disease can also travel through the bloodstream and make it even harder to regulate blood sugar.

In addition to increasing the risk of gingivitis and periodontitis, uncontrolled diabetes can also lead to a variety of other oral health problems, such as:

  • Dry mouth
  • Burning mouth syndrome
  • Impaired or slower healing
  • Increased severity and frequency of infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Salivary gland enlargement

What You Can Do

Now for the good news: even with diabetes, good oral health is within reach. Even better: keeping your teeth and gums healthy will also make the diabetes easier to manage! Make sure to brush twice a day for two minutes with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste, floss daily or use a water flosser or interdental brush, use a non-alcoholic mouthwash, and don’t smoke. Carefully regulating your sugar intake is a major factor as well.

The Dentist’s Role

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, the standard two dental exams per year may not be enough. To stay on the safe side, we recommend that you increase the number of yearly visits to three or four. It is also crucial for us to know how you and your doctor are working together to get it under control. Likewise, your doctor needs to know how we are working with you to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

We can help you win the fight for your dental health!

Top image by Flickr user Kolin Toney used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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.