Healthy smiles for Halloween

October 31 is creeping up, and that means your kids have a big bag full of candy to look forward to! However, being conscious of dental health, even on Halloween, can help you manage your family’s overall health. Good oral health reduces the risk of serious problems like heart attack and stroke and reduces the likelihood of diabetes. Cavities and gum disease are common chronic health issues for both children and adults in the United States.

Luckily, almost all oral diseases, including cavities and gum disease, are preventable. Even though a little candy now and then is OK, a good daily hygiene routine and regular twice-yearly visits to the dentist will keep your mouth healthy and your smile bright.

Clean routine

Poor oral health can result in cavities, gum disease, and oral cancer. Plaque is the film of bacteria that develops on your teeth. If allowed to build up, it can lead to gum disease, which causes inflammation, bleeding, decay and even tooth loss. Poor oral health can also contribute to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

The recommended daily oral hygiene routine is simple: brush twice a day and floss once a day. It is important to use toothpaste that contains fluoride — a mineral that strengthens your teeth. When brushing, be sure to take enough time to do the job well. It is recommended to brush your teeth for a full 2 minutes and to reach all sides. Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months. While studies have shown that the electric toothbrushes are most effective, brushing with a regular toothbrush for 2 minutes gets the job done and is cheaper. Also avoid smoking, which can damage healthy gums and stain the enamel on your teeth.

Don’t be tricked by treats

It’s easy to overlook dental care for young children because their baby teeth will fall out. However, baby teeth are important for early physical and social development. It is also recommended that parents assist children with brushing their teeth up until the age of 7. Tooth decay is the top chronic childhood illness and is mostly preventable. Dental sealants, a protective coating applied to the chewing surface of the molars, can prevent 80 percent of cavities for the first two years after being applied and 50 percent for up to 4 years. Children who do not have dental sealants are 3 times more likely to get cavities.

A key component of good oral health is diet. Sugary and acidic foods and drinks wreak havoc on your teeth. Every time you consume something sugary, the sugar combines with the bacteria on your teeth and creates an acid that attacks the enamel and leads to tooth decay. While having some candy is fine on occasions like Halloween, the real damage happens when eating sugar regularly. It is not how much sugar you consume, but how often you consume it. An attack on your teeth occurs every time sugar is consumed and lasts for 20 minutes. If you sip on soda all day, your teeth are under constant attack. Diet soda is not a good solution, either, because it has its own acid that has a similar effect. To minimize tooth decay, limit the number of times you consume sugary foods, drink sugary liquids through a straw, and chew sugar-free gum after eating or drinking.

 Online resources

  1.  Mouth Healthy Dental Tips
  2. CDC: Oral Health Basics
  3. CDC: Oral Health Conditions
  4. CDC: Dental Sealants
  5. University of Utah: Teeth Facts
  6. org: General Teeth Information
  7. org: Diet
  8. org: Caring for Your Teeth
  9. CDC: Chronic Disease Indicator
  10. Wisconsin Dental Association: Sip All Day, Get Decay
  11. Wisconsin Dental Association: Wisconsin Dental Association
  12. Baby Teeth Matter

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