10 Things You May Not Know About Oral Health

By Karen Weeks

You probably already know that keeping your teeth and gums healthy is incredibly important, but you may not be aware of just how much your oral health contributes to other parts of your overall well-being. Most of us have heard the standard advice for keeping up with flossing and brushing, but do you know the reasoning behind it? Read on to learn 10 things you never knew about dental health.

  1. Straight teeth are easier to keep clean.

Most of us would love to have a perfect smile. Having straighter teeth has many benefits beyond just looking nice. When there’s an overlap, it’s harder to brush and floss effectively and to keep bacteria and plaque from sticking around. Crooked teeth can also lead to halitosis and even gum disease if left untreated.

  • Gum color is important.

Gum disease is a serious condition that has been linked to diabetes and heart disease. Many Americans live with it and aren’t aware of the risks. Healthy gums should be firm and pink, while soft tissue or discoloration could be a sign that something isn’t right.

  • Sugar-free soda can harm your teeth.

Many people choose sugar-free soda as a “healthier” option, but these drinks can still damage your teeth, especially if you drink them often. This is because the acids formed by the bacteria in your mouth and the soda’s ingredients erode enamel and eventually lead to cavities.

  • Acid reflux can cause problems, too.

Recurring acid reflux can damage enamel, as well. This can usually be treated with a change in diet and exercise.

  • Dry mouth can cause problems.

Saliva plays an important role in your oral health by washing away tiny food particles and neutralizing the acids created by bacteria. If you don’t stay hydrated, you may not be making enough saliva. Drink water throughout the day to prevent dry mouth, especially if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

  • Stress affects your teeth, too.

Most of us deal with stress in some form or another throughout the week, but did you know it can have a negative effect on your mouth? Many people grind their teeth in their sleep after a hard day, which can wear down or even crack teeth and lead to bite issues and sensitivity. If you notice a sore jaw in the morning, talk to your dentist about how to prevent grinding.

They may recommend trying different methods to reduce stress in your life. If you work from home, try to incorporate a dedicated workspace and take walks to wind down your workday.

  • Healthy food is good for more than just your diet.

Eating well is a good idea, whether you’re dieting or not, since crunchy, fresh vegetables and fruit help to keep your teeth strong. It can also be part of lowering your stress levels. Be sure to floss after eating things like apples or celery to prevent small pieces from getting stuck.

  • Your teeth might not just be stained.

We all want a white smile, but before you reach for over-the-counter teeth whiteners, talk to your dentist about whether that yellow discoloration is a stain or enamel loss.

  • Sleep apnea could be related to your mouth.

Many Americans suffer from sleep apnea—a condition that prevents proper breathing during sleep. There are several causes, including improper jaw development. A dentist can help you find a solution and get relief.

    10.  Medications can affect your gums.

Certain medications can cause inflammation, which can affect your gums and lead to other problems. Talk to your doctor about potential interactions.

Good oral health is an important part of your overall well-being because it can help prevent other issues in the body. By making regular dental care part of your routine and seeking professional help as issues arise, you can keep your gums and teeth in great shape for years to come.

For dentists looking to join the constituent society of the ADA in Florida, join the Florida Dental Association today!

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.


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.