Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Debunking Dental Myths: How Well Do You Know Your Teeth?

By Dr. Brian NovĂ˝, Director of Practice Improvement, DentaQuest Institute

Myths are something we are exposed to every day – we hear them from our co-workers, friends and family. Everyone has heard the ones about chewing gum staying in your stomach for seven years, if swallowed, or that you should never wake a sleep walker. But, did you know there are many myths about oral care and your teeth? In this post, we’ll play a game of true or false, and cover 9 common “facts” about teeth. Can you guess what is a myth and what is true?

1.    You should floss before you brush your teeth.
This is in fact true. If you floss after you brush, there is a risk that you will wipe plaque all over your clean teeth. Ideally, you would brush, floss and then brush again.

2.    Whitening your teeth will hurt your enamel.
This is a myth. While excessive whitening can be harmful, a tiny bit of bleaching gel, like carbamide peroxide, can help kill bacteria on your teeth that can cause periodontal disease and tooth decay.

3.    Bad breath is only caused by not brushing your teeth.
Would you believe that this is false? Bad breath can be caused by a number of factors. For instance, your tonsils can collect debris causing your breath to smell. Bad breath can also be caused by more serious issues, like periodontal disease and untreated tooth decay.

4.    You should use an electronic toothbrush over a regular toothbrush.
Also a myth – a regular toothbrush can do a great job of brushing, but some patients find that an electronic toothbrush can make brushing easier. Soft toothbrushes do a better job cleaning than medium or hard bristled toothbrushes, so always select a toothbrush with soft bristles.

5.    You only need to visit your dentist only once a year.
False! Everyone needs to visit the dentist at least once a year, and some patients need to visit the dentist four times a year. You should talk with your dentist about how many times a year you should visit his or her office.

6.    Brushing bleeding gums is bad.
This is one of the biggest myths out there! If your gums are bleeding, you need to brush more carefully and floss more often. If your gums still bleed after a week of gentle thorough brushing, see your dentist to ensure everything is ok.

7.    People who get cavities simply just don’t brush their teeth.
It’s much more complicated than that – this is another myth. Cavities are caused by a bacterial infection. Brushing is an easy way to prevent some cavities but you need to encourage oral health by eating protective foods, flossing and visiting the dentist for regular check-ups. 

8.    All fillings you have in your mouth will eventually need to be replaced.
This is true! Once you have had a filling, your tooth has been weakened. There currently is no perfect filling material out there, so fillings must be maintained over your lifetime. You can help you fillings last longer by caring for them with proper home care.

9.    You should not go to the dentist when you are pregnant.
This is a very common myth. While you are pregnant, your hormone levels change which can make it easier for bacteria to cause dental infections. It is important for expecting mothers to also let their dentist know if they have any changes in their oral health, like bleeding gums. Be sure to see your dentist regularly if you are pregnant.

How did you do? Did you get all 9 right? As you can see, knowing the difference between the facts and myths surrounding dental health is important not only for your oral health, but also your overall health. Always check with your dentist if you have any questions or want to clarify any myths!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The importance of community water fluoridation to oral health

By John Luther, DDS, Senior Vice President, Chief Dental Officer DentaQuest and Michael Monopoli, DMD, MPH, MS, Director of Policy and Programs DentaQuest Foundation  

A recent recommendation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has brought about a resurgence of support for community water fluoridation within the oral health community.

Dentists have consistently been strong advocates for the health benefits of fluoridating public water supplies, and fluoridation is widely regarded as one of the top public health achievements of the past century. Officials from both public health organizations and professional dentistry agree that water fluoridation and fluoride toothpaste are largely responsible for the significant decline in tooth decay in the U.S. over the past several decades.

Fluoride doesn't cure or medicate -- it simply prevents. Similar to a vitamin, the right amount of fluoride in our drinking water improves resistance to tooth decay and causes us no harm. By preventing tooth decay, community water fluoridation has been shown to save money, both for families and the healthcare system.

In 2000, the U.S. Task Force on Community Preventive Services examined 21 studies and concluded that fluoridated water reduces tooth decay by a median rate of 29% among children ages 4 to 17. While children are typically cited as the beneficiaries of this protection, a 2010 study in the American Journal of Public Health (October 2010, Vol. 100:10, pp. 1980-1985) found that the fluoridated water consumed as a young child makes the loss of teeth from decay less likely 40 or 50 years later when that child is a middle-aged adult.

Recently, HHS announced the first change in the recommended amount of fluoride for public drinking water supplies in more than 50 years. The new guidelines utilize the best evidence available to clarify the amount of fluoride needed to achieve the optimal amount of tooth decay prevention.

The department gave several reasons for the change, mainly citing that Americans have more access to sources of fluoride than they did when water fluoridation was first introduced in the 1940s, but water is just one of multiple sources. Consumers also have access to fluoride toothpastes, mouth rinses, and prescription fluoride supplements, as well as fluoride applied by dental professionals.

We, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Dental Association, and many other organizations, know that community water fluoridation is one of the most cost-effective means of preventing dental caries. The new recommendation, along with other current findings, strengthens our understanding of the preventive effects of fluoride on oral health and reinforces the need for communities to continue to invest in keeping fluoride in community water.

After more than 70 years of studying fluoridation in drinking water, it is clear that this practice is one of the most important health-promoting policies that a community can offer all its residents. This is especially true for those who are low-income, those with limited access to regular dental care, and those who experience health disparities firsthand. It's effective. It's safe. And it's the reason why both children and adults today have much less tooth decay than people had a generation ago.

This piece originally ran on  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

King v. Burwell: An Historic Moment for Prioritizing Equity and Improving Health

By Steve Pollock, President and Chief Executive Officer

In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of upholding an important piece of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the King v. Burwell case. This ruling confirmed the eligibility of Americans to receive tax credits to purchase much-needed health coverage, whether they live in a state with its own insurance exchange or one operated by the federal government. This crucial ruling underscores the importance of equity – no matter where you live – when it comes to getting the care you need. King v. Burwell is a landmark decision – marking a truly unique time in our history as a country and providing healthcare to those who need it most.

The ACA is already eliminating significant barriers to dental care. Thanks to this important Supreme Court decision, it will be able to continue to bring coverage to people across the country. To help illustrate the impact of ACA already, according to the American Dental Association:

·         17.7 million adults are eligible to receive basic dental coverage through the ACA
·         4.5 million adults will gain extensive dental benefits through Medicaid
·         About 800,000 adults will gain dental benefits through the health insurance exchanges

While we cannot understate the importance of the King v. Burwell ruling and its representation of our leaders’ commitment to providing everyone – no matter your income, age or geographic location – with access to care and the ability to lead a healthy life, we still have our work cut out for us:
  1. As my colleague Dan Sheehan mentioned in a recent post about, we must improve the federal exchange so consumers can access the dental coverage they need and want.
  2. We must provide consumers with the tools they need to make coverage decisions that positively impact their oral health. This means including consumer-focused resources on to help consumers choose the right dental coverage for their families.
  3. While the ACA enables access, many are still left out of the mix. This year, on the 50th anniversary, Medicaid and Medicare need to provide for comprehensive adult dental benefits.
As I look to the future from this ruling, I am hopeful that we will increase access to healthcare and promote equity across the U.S., allowing our citizens to achieve their healthiest selves. At DentaQuest, we are committed to working with our leaders, stakeholders and local communities to achieve this goal and it is within our grasp!