Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Resolution to Smile About

The many family gatherings and holiday parties are not only trying times for your waistline, but can also be quite tough on your teeth. Billions of candy canes are eaten each holiday season and each person puts away an estimated 12 pounds of premium chocolates.

But it’s not just the food.

Americans, on average, drink enough for every person to have 7 bottles of liquor, 12 bottles of wine and 230 cans of beer. All capped off with a customary glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve.

If you don't bother to make good decisions about what you are eating and drinking, or to properly clean your pearly whites afterward, you could end up with tooth decay, gum disease and possible tooth loss.

With this in mind, I want to share a couple of oral health tips that will help keep your smile intact this holiday season and into the next:

1. If you choose to drink wine, choose red over white. While many people think red wine is worse because of its staining power, white wine contains more sugar which is actually more harmful for your teeth in the long run. Regardless of which wine you choose to drink, you should always rinse your mouth out with water before you brush your teeth.

2. If you choose to drink spirits or liquor the opposite is true. You should actually choose the lighter or clear liquids to avoid higher sugar contents. However if you are mixing a clear alcohol with a sugary juice or other drink then you still aren’t doing yourself any favors. As with the wine, you should rinse your mouth out with water after you drink and before you brush your teeth.

3. You should always consume candy in moderation – sugar free if possible. But if you are choosing between a candy cane and a piece of chocolate, go with the piece of chocolate. Sticky candies are less likely to wash out from between your teeth with saliva and therefore get more time in contact with your teeth. This is also true for fruit cake.

4. No matter how exhausted you may be from hosting your family or attending your fifth holiday party in a row, always remember to brush your teeth before you go to bed. If all the acid from the food you ate gets 8 hours to fester in your mouth it can do a whole lot of damage that could have been prevented with 2 minutes, a toothbrush, and some floss.

Good dental habits throughout the holidays – and year round – will help make for a happier New Year. As you make plans for 2011 I hope you all will resolve to be better to your teeth because that’s something we can all smile about.

-Dr. Linda Vidone, Associate Dental Director for DentaQuest

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Risky Business

I graduated from dental school 30 years ago and enjoyed many years of private practice. Working on the benefits side of dentistry as I do now has also been rewarding in many of the same ways. My son graduated from dental school this past summer and during his four years, I joined the faculty at Tufts and lectured about the business side of dentistry.

Although I have done some volunteer dentistry since leaving private practice, I hadn’t had a personal patient encounter in several years. That was before I was introduced to a young man (26 years old) a couple of months ago. He was wearing his army fatigues, even though he was now a civilian. My son is an Army dentist, so I started up a conversation.

This young man was suffering from multiple abscessed teeth from some poor decisions that he had made since high school. When I say suffering, I mean the kind of suffering that had caused him to try to pull out his own tooth with pliers. A few years ago, his teeth were fine. But following some drug abuse and lack of home care, his 26-year old mouth was in serious trouble. I connected him with program that would give him some care, but this young man was unable to keep the appointments because his employer would not give him the time off. A colleague in our office who maintains a dental practice one day a week offered to help this young man and opened her office for him on a Saturday.

Now I would like to make two points about this experience. First, returning to clinical dentistry is like riding a bicycle and we were able to help this young man over two Saturdays. The second point is I was struck by the sense of invincibility in young people—they believe they can take chances and nothing will hurt them. I was alarmed and saddened to see how devastating their decisions can be, even a few years later.

Not taking care of your teeth is risky business. Whether it is the overuse of sports drinks or sugary sodas, prescription drug misuse, lack of oral hygiene, playing sports without a mouth guard, or driving without a seat belt, the speed of dental decay and its lasting devastation can change a young person’s life forever. Maintaining good oral health takes very little effort. Don’t ignore it!

Kids think that dentures are only for grandparents. In this case, they belong to a 26 year young man.

Doyle Williams, DDS