We’re all familiar with “naughty” and “nice” lists for food: “nice” items are beneficial or at least harmless; on the other hand, those on the “naughty” list are not and should be avoided. And processed sugar has had top billing on many people’s “naughty” list for some time now.
And for good reason: it’s linked to many physical ills including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. As a favorite food for oral bacteria that cause dental disease, sugar can also increase your risk for tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease.
Most people agree that reducing sugar in their diet is a great idea health-wise. But there’s one small problem: a great many of us like sugar—a lot. No matter how hard we try, it’s just plain difficult to avoid. Thanks perhaps to our ancient ancestors, we’re hard-wired to crave it.
But necessity is the mother of invention, which is why we’ve seen the development over the past half century of artificial sweeteners, alternatives to sugar that promise to satisfy people’s “sweet tooth” without the harmful health effects. When it comes to dental health, these substitute sweeteners won’t contribute to bacterial growth and thus can lower disease risk.
But are they safe? Yes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency has approved six types of artificial sweeteners for human consumption: acesulfame K, saccharin, aspartame, neotame, sucralose and rebaudioside A. According to the FDA any adverse effects caused by artificial sweeteners are limited to rare conditions like phenylketonuria, which prevents those with the disease from safely digesting aspartame.
So, unless you have such a condition, you can safely substitute whatever artificial sweetener you prefer for sugar. And if dental health is a particular concern, you might consider including xylitol. This alcohol-based sweetener may further deter tooth decay—bacteria can’t digest it, so their population numbers in the mouth may actually decrease. You’ll find xylitol used as a sweetener primarily in gums, candies and mints.
Reducing sugar consumption, couple with daily oral hygiene and regular dental visits, will certainly lower your risk of costly dental problems. Using a substitute sweetener might just help you do that.
If you would like more information on sweetener alternatives, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Artificial Sweeteners.”
Kids may complain about being restrained in the car, but car seats and booster seats save lives. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that using a car or booster seat in a passenger car reduces the risk of fatal injury 71 percent in children younger than 1 and 54 percent in toddlers ages 1 to 4. The statistics are just as impressive for older kids.
What type of seat should I use for my child?
Infants and toddlers should ride in rear-facing seats until they reach the highest weight or height recommended by the manufacturer. In the past, children were routinely removed from rear-facing seats when they were 2, even if they didn't meet height or weight limits. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently changed their guidelines and now recommend that kids remain in the seats as long as possible.
Toddlers and pre-schoolers who have reached the maximum height or weight limits for rear-facing seats should use forward-facing car seats. Again, the seats should be used until the child reaches the maximum height and weight recommendations.
Once kids are too tall or heavy for car seats, they will transition to booster seats. Booster seats should be used until children are 4'9" tall and 8 to 12 years old. Older children can begin using seat belts at that point but should sit in the back seat when possible, particularly if they're younger than 13.
How can I tell if the car seat is installed correctly?
Both car and booster seats should be securely fashioned with a latch system or seat belt. If the seat moves back and forth freely, it's not installed correctly. Properly installed seats should move no more than an inch in any direction.
My child's legs seem too long for the car seat. What should I do?
You may wonder if your child should move up to the next seat or a booster seat if your child's feet touch the back of car seat. As long as your child is shorter than the maximum height for the seat, he or she should remain in the current seat.
Should my child use a secondhand car seat?
Passing a seat down to your next child can be a good idea if your children are only a few years apart in age. Before you reuse a seat for a younger child, make sure that it hasn't expired or been recalled since you bought it. Throw away car and booster seats after accidents, even minor ones. The seat may look perfectly fine but may be damaged internally.
Buying secondhand car seats online or at yard sales should be avoided. You won't necessarily know if the seat has been in an accident or if it has defective latches or restraints.
Using car seats consistently, whether you're going to the grocery store or taking a cross-country trip, can help your child avoid serious injuries due to traffic accidents. Talk to your child's pediatrician if you have questions about the seats.
In many parts of the country, summer is often a synonym for "blast furnace" and can be downright hot and miserable. If you find yourself in such a climate, it's imperative that you drink plenty of water to beat both the heat and heat-related injuries. Your teeth and gums are another reason to keep hydrated during those hot summer months.
Your body needs water to produce all that saliva swishing around in your mouth. When you have less water available in your system, the production of this important bodily fluid can go down—and this can increase your risk of dental disease. That's because saliva performs a number of tasks that enhance dental health. It helps rinse the mouth of excess food particles after eating that could become a prime food source for disease-causing bacteria. It also contains antibodies that serve as the first line of defense against harmful microorganisms entering through the mouth.
Perhaps saliva's most important role, though, is protecting and strengthening enamel, the teeth's outer "armor" against disease. Although the strongest substance in the body, enamel has one principal foe: oral acid. If the mouth's normally neutral pH becomes too acidic, the minerals in enamel begin to soften and dissolve. In response, saliva neutralizes acid and re-mineralizes softened enamel.
Without a healthy salivary flow protecting the mouth in these different ways, the teeth and gums are vulnerable to assault from bacteria and acid. As they gain the upper hand, the risk for tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease can skyrocket. Keeping yourself adequately hydrated ensures your body can produce an ample flow of saliva.
By the way, summer heat isn't the only cause for reduced saliva: Certain prescription medications may also interfere with its production. Chemotherapy and radiation, if targeting cancer near the head or neck, can damage salivary glands and impact flow as well.
If you have reduced saliva from medication you're taking, talk to your doctor about switching to an alternative prescription that doesn't affect saliva production. If you're undergoing cancer treatment, be extra vigilant about your oral hygiene practice and regular dental visits. And as with summer heat, be sure you're drinking plenty of water to help offset these other effects.
Even when it's hot, summertime should be a time for fun and relaxation. Don't let the heat ruin it—for your health or your smile.
Humanity has been waging war against tooth decay for millennia — with this relentless opponent often getting the better of us.
Over the last century, however, significant treatment advances have turned the tide of battle in our favor. Perhaps the greatest of these advancements is our deeper grasp of the disease process — new understandings that have altered our treatment strategy. Rather than wait for cavities to occur and then repair the damage, we now focus on stopping the damage from occurring in the first place.
Prevention starts by reducing factors that contribute to tooth decay. We can signify these detrimental factors with the acronym BAD:
Bad Bacteria. Millions of bacteria inhabit our mouths at any one time, but only a few strains produce the acid that causes decay. We want to reduce their population by removing dental plaque (where they feed and grow) through daily brushing and flossing, and, at a minimum, semi-annual office cleanings.
Absence of Saliva. This important fluid neutralizes acid and strengthens tooth enamel. Some people, however, suffer from reduced saliva flow. We want to find the cause (for example, a side effect of certain prescription drugs) and then improve saliva flow.
Dietary Habits. A diet heavy in sugar and acid (particularly sodas and soft drinks) gives bacteria a ready food source and increases the mouth’s acidic level. Chronic high acid levels in particular are often too great for normal saliva flow to overcome and neutralize. Reducing the amount and frequency of these food items creates a healthier oral environment.
Reducing BAD factors is only half of our prevention focus. We also want to promote SAFE factors that enhance tooth health and strength: Sealants, especially for children, that shield tooth surfaces from decay; Antimicrobial rinses that target and rid the mouth of acid-producing bacteria and give healthy bacteria room to develop; Fluoride, a proven enamel-strengthening chemical available in dental products, many drinking water systems and as a topical application in dental offices; and an Effective diet that’s rich in nutrients and low in sugar and acid as already mentioned.
Keeping the focus on reducing BAD factors and promoting SAFE factors will greatly increase your chances of personally winning the war against tooth decay.
If you would like more information on the prevention and treatment of tooth decay, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay: How to Assess Your Risk.”
Has your child been uncharacteristically fatigued as of late? Whereas before they were running and jumping around, now they seem more sluggish and uninterested. Perhaps this weary state has also been accompanied by a recurrent sore throat and headaches? If so, your child may be afflicted by Mononucleosis—a condition better known as Mono.
Although Mono isn’t generally a serious illness, it can both be extraordinarily uncomfortable and contagious. Read on to learn about this condition’s potential symptoms and treatment options, and make sure to call your local pediatrician if you are at all concerned that your child has developed Mono.
Mono: Basic Background and Symptoms
Generally caused by exposure to the Epstein-Barr Virus, Mono is an infectious illness often spread through the exchange of bodily fluids, especially saliva—a characteristic that has led to its nickname, “the kissing disease.”
As mentioned above, fatigue is the most common symptom of Mono. However, there are a few additional symptoms that can point to its presence, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Recurring headaches
- Sore throat, accompanied by white patches in the neck
- Light sensitivity
If your child has exhibited these signs, make an appointment with your pediatrician so that you can obtain a proper diagnosis.
Due to Mono being caused by a virus, antibiotics cannot treat the condition. Instead, doctors recommend the following measures:
- Lots and lots of rest, particularly bed rest during the condition’s beginning stages
- Refraining from any strenuous activity (especially sports, but also school if the fatigue is too much to handle)
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers to help relieve any throat or fever discomfort
- Taking multi-vitamins to strengthen the immune system
Concerned? Give Us a Call
Mono can be an extremely uncomfortable experience, and the sooner you pinpoint your child’s condition, the sooner they can find relief. If you are worried that your little one has developed Mono, give your local pediatrician a call today.
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