Brush Up on Your Dental IQ

Live Healthy

The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but your mouth is the gatekeeper to overall health.

“Dental health is one of the most important ways to maintain good health,” says Dr. Grace Galiza, a pediatrician at Kauai Medical Clinic. 

“Having teeth free of tooth decay and healthy gums helps prevent bacteria from getting to other parts of the body – most especially the bloodstream and the heart,” Galiza explains. 

The health of your teeth and gums can also point to other health issues. 

For example, gingivitis and cavities can be a sign of internal inflammation, such as heart disease or arthritis

“There have been studies that show that people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease have a higher incidence of gum disease,” adds Galiza. 

Here’s something to smile about: The best way to avoid major mouth problems is through proper dental hygiene – brushing and flossing twice a day, plus using mouthwash. 

Galiza also advises limiting sugary or sticky foods – the snack of choice for plaque-forming bacteria. 

“Bacteria feed off of sugar to survive,” Galiza says. “Also, sugar prevents saliva, the body’s natural tooth cleanser, from doing its job.” 

A visit to the dentist every six months can help clean off any plaque buildup as well as spot medical issues early, before they progress. 

And don’t think that just because their teeth aren’t permanent that children and babies don’t need to go to the dentist! 

“Your baby’s first dental appointment should be whenever the first tooth appears, or by baby’s first birthday,” Galiza states. 

“Think of baby teeth as creating a healthy pathway for one’s permanent teeth to grow into,” Galiza explains. “If there are cavities that lead to gum inflammation, permanent teeth may have a harder time growing in properly. Baby teeth also help with developing proper enunciation of words and help to chew food properly.” 

Encourage good oral hygiene early in life by cleaning your baby’s gums with a cloth and water. As soon as the first tooth erupts, use a soft toothbrush and a small smear of toothpaste to clean the mouth. You may increase the amount of toothpaste to a “pea size” dot for children ages 3 to 6 years old. 

“Sippy cups should only contain water, and you should never put a baby to sleep with a bottle,” Galiza advises. 

Parents may have heard about the importance of fluoride, which usually is added to drinking water in order to prevent tooth decay. 

“Fluoride, which is present in low amounts in Hawaii’s drinking water, is important in restoring calcium to decaying teeth and also limits the production of corrosive acid,” Galiza says. “Usually, fluoride toothpaste is not enough, and a fluoride supplement taken with a daily multivitamin is necessary. This is usually prescribed by your child’s doctor or dentist.”

Published on: May 7, 2016