Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Questions About Mouth Rinse Products

There has been some buzz this week about the FDA’s warnings about false claims that certain mouth rinse products can reduce plaque, promote gum health, and prevent gum disease. While these mouth rinse products do contain sodium fluoride, an active ingredient that is effective in preventing cavities, it has not been proven to remove plaque or prevent gum disease.

As with losing weight, there are many easy fixes but we all know it’s the basics—regular exercise and proper diet—that really work. The same goes for taking care of your mouth -- total oral health care does not consist of only using mouth rinses that “do it all.”

Total oral care is brushing, flossing and rinsing – IN THAT ORDER.

Most people understand the importance of brushing, but total care is more than brushing alone. Total oral care also includes flossing AND rinsing. Rinses can be water, mouthrinse, fluoride rinse, and even chlorhexidine, if your oral care provider recommends it. Each option is more effective than the previous one -- but only after proper brushing and flossing. And from start to finish, the full routine takes just 3 minutes.

Do your mouth a favor – make total oral health care part of your daily routine.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Smiles for Life

I’d like to introduce you to a very useful online oral health resource from the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. It is called Smiles for Life. You can check it out at And it is FREE for anyone to use.

Smiles for Life was originally developed in 2005 to support physicians training in Family Medicine residency programs provide oral health education and preventive information to their patients. Today, Smiles for Life is the nation’s most comprehensive and widely used oral health curriculum for medical care providers-- including physicians, pediatricians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, anesthesiologists, etc.

The DentaQuest Foundation has been a long time supporter of this project. In 2009, we provided a grant to the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine to develop a web-based, interactive 3rd edition of Smiles for Life. This state of the art curriculum is completely FREE. Anyone interested in better oral health can easily access the materials and learn on their own time and at their own pace.

Why is this important? The ADA recommends children get a first dental check up around the 1st birthday. However, a child will likely see his or her pediatrician as many as 5 times before the 1st dental visit. Primary care health providers can play an important role in educating patients on cleaning teeth and gums and advising parents on the dangers of allowing cavity-causing bacteria to linger in the mouths of their children. As the child grows, these visits are another opportunity to deliver preventive oral health education and early intervention.

Thanks to the Smiles for Life curriculum, increasing numbers of parents – young and not so young -- are getting essential guidance and prevention skills to help their families maintain good oral health throughout their lives.

Guest Blogging by Ralph Fuccillo, President, DentaQuest Foundation

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dr. Man Wai Ng, Oral Health Champion

This morning, I gathered with DentaQuest colleagues and others in Boston's health care community at Boston Business Journal's Health Care Champion Awards ceremony. I extend my congratulations to all 2010 Champions and especially to Dr. Man Wai Ng who was recognized in the category of Innovator. Dr. Ng is an important research partner with the DentaQuest Institute, focused on improving treatment for children with early childhood caries (cavities) .

Every day, Dr. Ng, Dentist-in-Chief at Children’s Hospital Boston, sees the tragedy of advanced cases of dental disease in very young children. She often talks about the children -- 5 years old and younger – who arrive at the emergency room in severe pain from tooth decay that has ravaged their baby teeth. In many cases, the children she sees have suffered for such a long time that the underlying disease has begun to erode their jawbones to the point where they may not be able to develop normal permanent teeth! In these cases, the only solution for these young children is often surgery.

Hospital-based dental clinics, like the one Dr. Ng leads at Children’s Hospital in Boston, care for a disproportionate number of very young, low-income, racial and ethnic minority children with the advanced tooth decay of early childhood caries.

The traditional way of treating extreme cases of early childhood caries is surgery in the hospital operating room. The treatment is difficult, extremely scary for children, very expensive, and very avoidable, especially when you consider that dental disease is almost 100% preventable. What's even sadder is that children with this advanced disease typically wait up to 6 months for an opening in the operating room. And as they wait, they are in significant pain. If you've ever suffered from a serious tooth ache, you know how uncomfortable this can be. The severity of mouth pain in these children impacts their ability to learn to speak, to eat, to play, and their overall quality of life. Although surgery restores the damaged teeth, it doesn't solve the root cause of the disease which is bacteria. Many children experience unacceptably high rates of cavity recurrence (23-57% within 6-24 months). Dr. Ng is working to stop the root cause of the disease by controlling the bacteria and break the cycle of childhood tooth decay.

Dr. Ng enlisted the DentaQuest Institute to underwrite a demonstration project that would enable her team at Children’s Hospital Boston and another team at St. Joseph Hospital for Children in Providence RI to test an alternative method of treating this disease. Dr. Ng’s focus is controlling the cause of dental cavities by eliminating the bacteria. She and her dental care team are involving the parent or caregiver with education and at home instruction as an equally important step in controlling the advance and recurrence of dental disease as the hospital treatment. After two years, the research teams are seeing remarkable success in reducing the frequency of operating room treatments and instances of reoccurrence the disease in these children.

Along with her work in the dental clinic at Children’s Hospital, Dr. Ng is a teacher and mentor for the next generation of dentists and pediatricians. She is proving that with education and prevention, children’s oral health can be improved, and at-risk children can return to a normal pain-free state. When this is done, costly, painful and invasive surgery can be minimized.

Dr. Ng’s focus on prevention is innovative, compassionate, and practical. It demonstrates that thoughtful changes to established care regimens that are based on good science do make a difference in stopping dental disease, improving the quality of life for at-risk young children, and reducing health care spending.

Today Dr. Ng thanked Children’s Hospital for recognizing the importance of oral health by including dental care among their services. We thank them too. And, we congratulate Dr. Ng for her great work, and for continued success in her cause to eliminate dental disease in children.

Guest blog post by Dr. Mark Doherty, Executive Director of the DentaQuest Institute

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sealants (yes)!

An article posted in the September 7 online issue of the journal Pediatrics, has stirred up a lot of media interest in the chemical BPA in dental materials such as sealants.

First let me state that dental sealants—the thin layer of plastic coating painted onto the surface of the teeth by your oral health professional – are one of the most effective tools in dentistry to prevent recurring dental cavities in children and teenagers.

The Pediatrics Journal article’s authors found that BPA is released only when certain chemicals in the sealants come in contact with saliva. BPA may be detected in saliva for up to 3 hours after the sealants are applied. How much is absorbed is not known.

You’ve probably heard of BPA -- the controversial chemical found in plastic food-storage containers and some water bottles. Earlier studies showed that its endocrine-disrupting, estrogen-like properties can pose health risks. Recommendations were made to reduce all exposure to BPA. That’s why the media has taken such an interest in this academic article.

I am concerned that mothers will only hear ‘BPA’ and skip getting this preventive dental treatment for their children.

The study’s authors explain that the exposure to BPA from dental materials is much smaller and less frequent than with the other sources. And there are common sense things that oral health professionals can do to reduce exposure to the chemical for their patients. They can use rubber dams to localize the teeth being worked on and prevent the resin from touching saliva. And, they can then wipe or rinse away any residue after treatment.

The bottom line is that because of the strong cavity fighting benefits of dental sealants and the limited exposure to BPA, the authors of this study do recommend that sealants continue to be used in pediatric dentistry.

And so do I.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sports Drinks & Your Teeth

Back to school means back to sports, and back to sports means an increase in the consumption of sugary and acidic sports drinks. The popular energy drinks sipped on by children participating in after school activities to rehydrate and revitalize can actually wreak havoc on their teeth.

The combination of acidic components, sugars, and additives in sports drinks combine to erode the tooth’s surface, weakening the enamel that protects teeth from bacteria. The enamel erosion ultimately makes teeth more susceptible to bacteria and leads to hypersensitivity, staining, and tooth decay.

If you drink a sports drink, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Don’t sip the drink throughout the day. - Drinking them quickly means less time for the sugars and acids to erode enamel.

Don’t swish them around your mouth. - That only increases the risk of erosion.

Use a straw. - So teeth aren’t immersed in or in direct contact with the sugars and acids in the beverage.

Resist the urge to brush your teeth immediately after finishing a sports drink. - Tooth enamel softens after consumption of acidic drinks, making teeth susceptible to more wear from the abrasives in toothpaste. Wait 45 minutes to an hour before brushing to give your saliva time to re-mineralize the tooth structure and neutralize the damage.

Seek regular dental care. - Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, five times more common than asthma. It’s also completely preventable with proper care. Your dentist can identify erosion, pinpoint the causes, and advise you on how to prevent further damage and more serious problems from occurring.

Wear a mouthguard! - It is rule number one when playing sports! Preventing injury to your teeth is as important as protecting them from decay and erosion.