Thursday, February 23, 2012

Know Your Teeth

By Dr. Doyle Williams

In celebration of Children’s Dental Health Month, I thought all my readers -- young and not so young -- would like to learn more about their teeth.

Have you ever thought about the life cycle of your teeth?

Yes, teeth do have a life cycle. From birth onward, teeth go through different stages and at each stage, they need a specific type of care.

Good oral health starts at birth -- even though teeth are typically not visible when a baby is born. Underneath those newborn gums, teeth are already forming and lining up in place. Start cleaning them (with a soft damp cloth) as soon as the first teeth come through the gums. They deserve careful care every day for the rest your life. One year of age is the time to schedule the baby’s first visit to a dental care professional.

I’d like to introduce you to website that takes you through the life of a tooth brought to you by the Academy of General Dentistry. Click the link and you’ll learn what to expect from dental visits at different ages, when you should go, and you’ll find tips on dental care routines that you should follow as your teeth mature.

I want to remind you that baby teeth are very important. They are for chewing and much more. Baby teeth serve as space-holders for adult teeth. A child’s permanent tooth will grow into the space left behind when the baby tooth falls out. If a child looses a baby tooth before the permanent tooth is ready to erupt into place, the child can have problems eating and even learning to speak properly.

Help your young children develop healthy teeth by avoiding giving them baby bottles at bedtime, use only water in sippy cups, use toothpaste with fluoride (after age 2), and limit snacking on sugary and starchy foods throughout the day.

Your mouth is a window to your good health. Take care of your teeth and they should last a lifetime!

*Photo source:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mouth Power!

By Dr. Doyle Williams

Did you know that there is a National Museum of Dentistry?

It’s in Baltimore, next to the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, and about a 10 minute walk from Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles and M&T Bank Stadium where the Baltimore Ravens play. If you’re in Baltimore on vacation and looking for something different to do, think about a visit to this Museum.

You’ll see George Washington’s teeth (and find out if they are really made of wood), learn about braces and beautiful teeth, get to play dentist/assistant/hygienist, sing along to old toothpaste commercials, and get hands on time with giant teeth and other fascinating exhibitions that encourage good oral health and celebrate the wonderful world of dentistry. There’s even a 13-foot, life-size model of a male narwhal with a 5-foot-long tusk! This museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and the nation’s official museum of the dental profession.

If you can’t go in person, check out the Museum online. At MouthPower, the Museum’s interactive online site, children can explore “Mouthie’s Laboratory” a virtual world of entertaining (and educational) oral health activities. This interactive approach is a great way for younger children to learn about the importance of good brushing and flossing habits, good eating habits for healthy teeth, what tobacco does to teeth, and why there are so many different kinds of dental instruments.

The activities in MouthPower program are also good for use in:

• Classrooms
• Dental offices, clinics and screening centers
• Community centers and libraries
• Boy Scout, Girl Scout and Camp Fire troop meetings

Teachers and group leaders can get additional resources by contacting the Museum.

And, the Museum hasn’t forgotten moms, dads, and grandparents. There’s for you! Check out this site -- its filled with tips for keeping a healthy adult smile all through your life!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Love Your Heart

By Dr. Doyle Williams

In support of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Campaign and American Heart Month, I’m taking a brief break from blogs in celebration of Children’s Dental Health Month to speak to women and men about oral health and heart disease.

The connection between oral health and overall health tells us something important: the mouth is a vital health indicator for the rest of the body.

The bacteria in our mouths that contribute to bleeding gums and tooth loss have also been found in our arteries. Some researchers believe that the presence of gum disease-causing bacteria in the arteries may contribute to our chances of heart disease.

How? The thinking is that the inflammation in our gums causes swelling of our arteries which constricts them and may make cholesterol blockage easier.

It is also thought that the gum disease bacteria actually stick to cholesterols and fats in our arteries making the blockage more likely as they accumulate.

Whatever the cause and effect, people with gum disease are twice as likely to also have heart disease. And, bleeding gums, which are a symptom of gum disease, may be the earliest indicator before any other signs of heart disease can be detected.

That’s another reason why it is important to brush and floss daily – to remove the bacteria from your mouth. If you see signs of blood when you brush, make an appointment with your oral health professional. Gum (periodontal) disease can be managed and controlled if it is caught early.

In 2010, the American Heart Association set a strategic goal of reducing death and disability from cardiovascular disease and strokes by 20% while improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% by the year 2020.

Make heart health a habit – brush and floss every day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

“Bombing” Away Tooth Decay

By Doyle Williams, Chief Dental Officer

Tooth decay better watch out; there’s a new oral health weapon on the horizon – and it comes in liquid form.

The new (and not yet approved for release to market) “Smart bomb” mouthwash, developed by Wenyuan Shi, chair of the oral biology section of the UCLA School of Dentistry, targets S. mutans, the strain of bacteria largely responsible for tooth decay.

This smart mouthwash works by targeting only the harmful bacteria, the S. mutans, without damaging helpful bacteria. In other words, it identifies the bad guys and bombs them away while leaving the good guys to carry on with their regular job of protecting your mouth.

A “Smart Bomb” mouthwash study has been published in the November issue of the Caries Research journal. The next step is getting FDA approval. If approved, this mouthwash would be the first preventive drug developed to fight tooth decay since fluoride. I always get excited about the potential for new ways to stop tooth decay. I’ll keep watching the progress of this drug, and report back if it’s approved.

February is National Children's Dental Health Month and that means a great opportunity to remind parents and caregivers to teach their children that cavities are preventable! Coach your children to brush their teeth twice a day, and to floss daily. Encourage them to eat healthy foods and to drink beverages that are not high in sugar. And make sure they visit a dental care provider at least once a year for a check up.

Having more preventive measures against tooth decay is one of the best ways to make sure our children keep their teeth healthy.