Cannon observes dental health month

By Capt Mike Hoge, D.M.D. and Staff Sgt. Stacy Groves RDH: 27th Special Operations Aerospace Medicine Squadron

February is Children’s Dental Health Month, and the Cannon Dental Clinic would like to help you to ensure excellent oral health for your children.

Did you know that tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease?

According to the National Institute of Health, cavities are five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. Over half of children between the ages of 5 and 9 have cavities or fillings and by age 17, that increases to four out of every five. (Source: National Institute of Health)

So, you didn’t think of cavities as a disease? The truth is, cavities are the result of an infection of the mouth by acid-producing bacteria that dissolve away your child’s teeth. Left untreated, they can cause severe pain and problems in eating, speaking, and learning. It is estimated that 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental-related illness.

Here are some simple recommendations to help protect your children from dental related illness:

• Regular check-ups: Get your child established with a local dentist and bring him/her in for regular check-ups. Seek dental insurance for your child. Studies have shown that uninsured children are 2.5 times less likely than insured children to receive dental care (source: NIH). Active duty dependents are eligible for the TRICARE Family Plan. For information regarding enrollment, call 1-800-866-8499.

• Brushing and flossing: Help your children to properly brush and floss their teeth. Even with the best of intentions, kids still need help brushing until they are at least six years of age. Brushing should be accomplished for two minutes twice a day. Monitor the amount of toothpaste they use; any more than a pea size amount can result in the ingestion of excess fluoride.

• Sugar intake: Watch the intake of sugary beverages and snacks. The bacteria in your mouth are fed by what you eat, which in turn produces an acid that breaks down the outer layer of your tooth. So, if you sip on a sugary beverage just once, you have created an acid attack that lasts for 20 minutes. Every time you sip a sugary drink that acid attack starts over. So, you could potentially bathe your teeth in acid all day long. Some helpful tips to minimize the breakdown of your teeth are: 1) Try not to sip sugary drinks all day, drink in one setting. 2.) Provide a healthy variety of snacks that contain natural occurring sugar. 3) Brushing and drinking water between snacks/beverages.

• Gum chewing: If your child chews gum, consider sugarless gum. The act of chewing can remove plaque from teeth and stimulate the production of saliva, which helps to counteract the effects of acid. Chewing gum with Xylitol will help by keeping the acid level lower in your mouth, until your able to brush/floss again.

• Water fluoridation: Fluoridated drinking water, when set to the correct levels, can be highly effective in preventing tooth decay. However, when developing teeth are exposed to excessive fluoride, spotting of the teeth can result. The tap water here in eastern New Mexico has naturally occurring fluoride at approximately double the level recommended by the American Dental Association and should not be consumed in large amounts by pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children under the age of 12. The base water plant manages an approved fluoride level for consumption for the base water supply.

• Mouth guards: Mouth guards are a great way to protect your child’s teeth when participating in sports. Experts now recommend that mouth guards be worn not only for contact sports, but also for non-contact sports such as gymnastics and rollerblading.

• There are three different types of mouth guards: Ready-made or stock, boil-and-bite, and custom made. While all three provide protection, they vary in comfort, durability and cost.

• Good rule of thumb: if you’re unsure what dental product to buy look for the ADA seal of approval. If a dental product is approved by the American Dental Association, that means it has met the requirements to do what the products says it can do.