Oral Health Education for Kids

By Karen P. Buckenheimer, RN, BSN, Executive Director

Students are back in school! Well, hopefully. Faced with the ever-growing concerns of COVID-19, oral health may be the last thing on anyone’s mind. But tooth decay is the most common disease of childhood, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. In fact, prior to the pandemic, tooth pain was the No. 1 reason children missed school.

For 30 years, I’ve had the honor to work for an amazing nonprofit, MORE HEALTH. Located in Tampa, we teach health and safety education lessons to students in grades K-12 throughout the Tampa Bay region. The first lesson we taught in 1989 was a dental health lesson for second grade students. Today, we offer 25 interactive lessons focused on providing valuable information to help kids and families stay safe and make healthy choices.

Teaching oral health is fun, rewarding, and sometimes surprising. Using an interactive kinesthetic style of teaching, we teach students how to brush their teeth, the importance of eating healthy foods and drinks, and encourage them to visit the dentist twice a year. Due to the pandemic, we transformed our in-person, hands-on lessons to high-energy virtual lessons. We now offer virtual oral health lessons throughout Florida and beyond.

Just last month, MORE HEALTH taught oral health to more than 1,100 adults and children attending the FDA Foundation’s Florida Mission of Mercy. Many of the patients did not know the basics. They asked questions such as how to brush their teeth, how cavities are formed and how often. Many were shocked to see the amount of sugar in a can of soda or sports drink. One even asked if they could use laundry bleach to whiten their teeth!

The dental visit is one of the most important teaching opportunities. Dentists are in a prime position to not only provide care to patients, but also reinforce the importance of oral health. Taking just a few minutes to talk with your patients about their hygiene habits can really make a difference. Most people are visual learners, so use a mouth model and toothbrush to show proper brushing. Another idea is to fill a jar with 10 teaspoons of sugar and hold next to a can of soda when you talk about drinking non-sugared drinks. Emphasize eating fruits and veggies and drinking fluoridated water. We use catchy phrases such as “just a dot, not a lot” when talking about fluoride toothpaste or remember the “2 + 2+ 2 rule” (brush two times a day, for two minutes and see your dentist twice a year). The few minutes you spend teaching your patients will definitely help them to be more compliant and have better oral health.

Even though this is basic information that you may feel everyone knows, hearing from the dental expert — you — means so much more. Teaching doesn’t stop in the office setting. Use every opportunity you can to reinforce the importance of oral health as it relates to overall health. Embrace teaching moments wherever you are — on the soccer field, on the golf course, at church or at the grocery store! Volunteer at the Great American Teach-in and visit your local schools and Boys and Girls Clubs. Enjoy getting involved in your community and take advantage of those teaching moments. Your expertise and advice will be appreciated and accepted. The kindness demonstrated that you truly care will help make you an integral and respected member in your community. It’s worth the effort.


MORE HEALTH, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, trains instructors to deliver interactive, exciting health education lessons to students, at no charge to school districts, through funding from local businesses, foundations, and state and federal grants. For more information, visit morehealthinc.org or call 813.287.5032.

Many U.S. Adults Unfamiliar With Key Dental Terms, Survey Finds

A new Adult’s Oral Health & Well-Being Survey indicates that a significant portion of the American population is not familiar with certain key dental terms. This unfamiliarity may lead to unease in the dental chair during discussions with your oral health care professional.

The FDA has a Dental Glossary for Patients in the 2019 Reception Room issue of Today’s FDA — coming soon to your FDA member dentist’s office and our website. In the meantime, check it out at bit.ly/2JPJRst.

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ADA Statement on Study Involving Dental Floss

By the American Dental Association

Recent, wide-spread news coverage based upon a recent research study may raise unwarranted concern about the safety of certain types of dental floss. The ADA Science Institute finds the data insufficient to support the conclusions presented in this research and associated media coverage.

No restrictions on the use of dental floss have been issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the regulatory agency that oversees clearance of dental products marketed to the public. It also is important to bear in mind that this is a single study. Public health policy and safety decisions should be based on the collective weight of scientific evidence.

The study, published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, involves a small sample of 178 women and their self-reported use of a wide array of consumer products and foods.

The study measured blood samples from 178 women and found that those who reported using a certain brand of dental floss had higher levels of a type of PFAS called PFHxS (perfluorohexanesulfonic acid) than those who didn’t.

One of many shortcomings of this study, according to the ADA Science Institute, is that the study measured fluorine as a marker of PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), though the women in the study who reported using a particular brand of floss were found to have elevated levels of PFHxS.

PTFE often is used in food and beverage, pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications. The fact that the researchers were able to find the PTFE marker in several brands of floss does not mean that it is the source of the PFHxS in the women.

Given that this was a retrospective study including self-reported use of products, there are likely many other differences between women who did and did not report having used the brand of floss mentioned.

The ADA sees no cause for concern based on current evidence, and above all continues to encourage people to clean between their teeth daily with floss or another interdental cleaner as part of the ADA’s daily oral hygiene recommendations.

This news release was published on the ADA’s website on Jan. 14, 2019 and can be found here.

MyView: Marijuana Use and Oral Health

By Dr. Melissa Beadnell

Cannabis, pot, hash and weed are just a few of the names used worldwide for marijuana. As you probably already are aware, Oregon legalized the possession of marijuana in 2015 to citizens who are 21 years or older. Even though this legislation is new, let’s face it: people have been growing, using, selling and distributing marijuana for decades or more. It’s interesting to note culturally how marijuana use has changed over the years. We’ve gone from taboo to table. Literally gone from not talking about it to having it right on the table. We need to tweak our perspectives just a bit to understand marijuana use and how it affects us as dental professionals.

Marijuana is derived from the cannabis plant. The main active ingredient is commonly known as THC (tetrahydro-cannabinol) and is the part of the plant that gives the “high.” There is a wide range of THC potency between different cannabis products.

Heavy use of marijuana has been reported to cause respiratory problems, bronchial complaints, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, tachycardia, acute panic and paranoia, and impairment with short-term memory and motor skills. The most beneficial use of marijuana is its antiemetic properties, especially for patients receiving chemotherapy and its ability to reduce intraocular pressure in the treatment of glaucoma. It is used widely for cancer patients, AIDS patients and those with other chronic diseases.

Marijuana use can lead to several oral problems. Of most concern to dental providers are the development of xerostomia and an often dramatic increased rate of caries. Additionally, irritation, edema and erythema of the oral tissues have been seen. A limited number of studies have linked a correlation between marijuana use and the risk of periodontal disease. As far as a link to the development of oral cancer, the high intraoral temperature from marijuana smoking can cause changes in oral tissues and cellular disruption. Although these changes likely could lead to oral cancer, the link has not been established.

Overall, we need to educate ourselves about the changing social environment. Marijuana is the new cigarette, the magical herb or the prescription needed for a subset of our patients. Whatever the reason, the cause or the cure, we need to be able to have an open dialogue with patients. Some visit us while they are trying to quit, and we may be the mentor needed helping them on their journey.

 

This editorial, reprinted with permission, first appeared in the April 2016 issue of the Multnomah Dental Society Hotline Newsletter, and more recently in the ADA News on Feb. 20, 2017. Dr. Melissa Beadnell is the editor of the newsletter and practices as a general dentist in Portland, Ore.