Delta Dental’s Top 5 Oral Health Resolutions for 2013

With a new calendar year on the horizon, many people are engaging in that time-honored American tradition of making resolutions, vowing to improve certain aspects of their lives.

For individuals who aspire to better their oral health in 2013, Delta Dental offers the following suggestions to help make these resolutions work.

• Brush/floss regularly: The uncomplicated daily one-two punch of brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once is still the foundation for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. The sooner you can brush following a meal, the better. The longer food stays stuck to your teeth, the more acid is produced that erodes tooth enamel.

• Visit a dentist in 2013: Don’t delay making an appointment for a check-up. Dentists do more than just check and clean teeth. They can also check for signs of serious oral health problems like oral cancer and gum disease, answer questions and provide advice for adults and children and alert patients to signs of potential medical conditions.

• Avoid tobacco products: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of the cases of severe gum disease in U.S. adults can be attributed to cigarette smoking, and the prevalence of gum disease is three times higher among smokers than non-smokers.1 Consuming products like cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco is arguably the single most destructive oral health habit.

• Eat sweets in moderation: It was ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle who advised, “Moderation in all things” and that axiom rings especially true for sweet snacks. Tooth decay occurs when candy, cookies, sodas and other sweets, or simple carbohydrates like those in chips or crackers mix with bacteria in the sticky plaque that constantly forms on teeth to produce acid, which can destroy tooth enamel. Whenever possible, stick to having sweets with dinner and brush afterward if possible. Limit sugary snacks because the more times during the day that your teeth are exposed, the longer the acids attack.

• Wear a mouthguard during contact sports: It’s not just kids who play contact sports these days. Millions of adults participate in competitive sports leagues in which there can be significant risk of contact. Though there is insufficient evidence to suggest mouthguards prevent concussions, they do absorb and distribute the forces that impact the mouth, teeth, face and jaw when an athlete takes a shot to the face. Wearing a mouthguard can prevent chipped, fractured, displaced or dislodged teeth, fractured or displaced jaws, TMJ trauma, and lacerations to the lips and mouth that result from the edges of the teeth.

1 Preventing Cavities, Gum Disease, Tooth Loss, and Oral Cancer – 2011 At a Glance. http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/AAG/doh.htm. Accessed 2012.

Make Dentist Visits the Rule for Back-to-School

Along with an annual physical, clothes and backpacks, Delta Dental suggests adding a visit to the dentist to your child’s back-to-school list this fall. Dental professionals recommend biannual visits for most children, and the end of summer is an ideal time because it follows a season in which kids have indulged in treats like soda, ice cream and cotton candy.

A dental visit is important because a dentist can diagnose potential oral health problems such as tooth decay or gum disease and apply preventive measures as needed, including teeth cleaning, fluoride treatment, dental sealants, and instruction on good dental hygiene habits. Making sure children get a clean bill of oral health before the school year allows them to return to class flashing a happy and healthy smile. Conversely, untreated dental problems can be painful and embarrassing, and can harm a child’s educational and social development. In 2007, for example, the State of California estimated that seven percent of their more than seven million schoolchildren (504,000) missed at least one day of school because of a dental problem. 1

Unfortunately, access to sufficient dental care is not nearly what it needs to be for children from poor and uninsured families. A study from the Pew Center on the States found that two-thirds of states in the U.S. do not have adequate policies in place to ensure access to proper preventive dentistry, particularly for those children that lack appropriate access to care. 2 Instead, programs like mobile dental units that visit schools and school-based dental sealant programs are playing a critical part in improving the oral health and quality of life of low-income, American children.

Ultimately, good oral health for children starts at home with proper dental hygiene and diet. The daily one-two punch of brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing once is still the foundation for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Very young children (ages one to five) are particularly prone to tooth decay and parents should supervise (or actually brush) to make sure they do a good job. A diet light on sugary snacks and drinks and rich in fruits and vegetables goes a long way toward maintaining good oral and overall health.

1(Source: 2007 California Health Interview Survey) UCLA Health Policy Research Brief – Unaffordable Dental Care Is Linked to Frequent School Absences, 2009 Pourat N and Nicholson G. http://www.healthpolicy.ucla.edu/pubs/files/Unaffordable_Dental_Care_PB_1109.pdf

2The Cost of Delay: State Dental Policies Fail One in Five Children. Pew Center on the States. http://www.pewtrusts.org/uploadedFiles/Cost_of_Delay_web.pdf.

Mouthguards are a Must

The leaves have fallen and winter is here. With the change in season, contact sports like basketball, wrestling and hockey have taken center stage.

These sports pose a risk of injury to the mouths of kids. Contrary to recommendations by dentists, however, most American children don’t wear mouthguards while playing such activities. That’s one of the key findings from a survey1 of American children’s oral health conducted earlier this year by Delta Dental Plans Association (DDPA).

Although mouthguards are only mandatory for some youth sports, such as ice hockey, football and lacrosse, dental professionals recommend they be worn for all athletic activities where there is a strong potential for contact with other participants or hard surfaces.

But nearly seven out of 10 Americans (68 percent) report that their child does not wear a mouthguard at soccer, basketball, baseball and softball practices or games. And some studies show that today’s basketball players are about 5 times more likely to sustain an orofacial injury than football players.2-3

Only about four out of 10 (44 percent) say that their child wears a mouthguard for hockey practice and games, which is mandatory. Even more alarming, nearly two out of 10 children (22 percent) only wear a mouthguard at games, not practice. According to Safe Kids USA, most organized sports-related injuries occur during practice rather than games.3 DDPA advises kids playing contact sports to wear mouthguards during practices and games.

There are multiple options to consider when purchasing a mouthguard for a child.

  • Stock mouthguards are relatively inexpensive and have a pre-formed shape. But since the fit can’t be adjusted, they’re less effective than a fitted option.
  • Mouth-formed mouthguards can be purchased at many sporting goods stores, and can be molded to the individual’s mouth, usually by boiling the mouthguard in hot water to soften the plastic.
  • Custom-made mouthguards are considered the best option but are the most expensive. Since they’re made by your dentist from a mold of your teeth, they fit tightly and correctly.

Still, if cost is a factor, any mouthguard is better than none at all.

1Morpace Inc. conducted the 2011 Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted by email nationally with 907 primary caregivers of children from birth to age 11. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is ±3.25 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

2Cohenca N, Roges RA, Roges R. The incidence and severity of dental trauma in intercollegiate athletes. J Am Dent Assoc. 2007 Aug;138(8):1121-6.

3Labella CR, Smith BW, Sigurdsson A. Effect of mouthguards on dental injuries and concussions in college basketball. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Jan;34(1):41-4.