The Risks of Taking a Summer Vacation from Dental Care

Ahhh, summertime. Cavities’ favorite season! Sugary treats combined with a slackened tooth brushing routine. While summer is a great time to ease up on busy schedules, there are some very important reasons why your kids shouldn’t take a break from good dental hygiene. And, why it’s important to offer them some tasty alternatives to sugar-laden sweets.

Your kids probably will have plenty of reasons for not being able to regularly brush. Their toothbrush got packed for a sleepover with a friend, but never got used. Your college student drank a Mountain Dew during an Xbox marathon, and fell asleep on the couch instead of brushing before heading to bed.

But consider this. Every time a candy bar, ice cream or soda is consumed, bacteria naturally found in the mouth gets right to work, converting the highly refined sugar that was consumed into acid. This is the nasty stuff that eats away at the tooth’s enamel, which ultimately leads to cavities.

Evening snacks, like eating a big bowl of popcorn while watching a summertime movie, vary greatly in sugar content. Instead of caramel corn, choose regular, or mix in some cheese-flavored corn. Select something other than soda to drink with it, such as bubbly water flavored with a splash of fruit juice. Remember that all acidic beverages should be sipped through a straw to avoid a full assault on the teeth.

To avoid a future dental horror show, remember to brush afterward to clear out the sugars from any movie-time candy that got into the pits and grooves of teeth, and to floss away those tiny popcorn kernels that made their way between the teeth. If, after you eat, it is going to be awhile before you can brush, consider chewing a piece of sugar-free gum that contains Xylitol. This ingredient promotes healthy teeth and has received the American Dental Association’s stamp of approval. Look for it the next time you pick up a pack of gum.

When planning a picnic, or packing car snacks, think about offering these healthy, teeth-friendly treats:

Sticky candy like gummy bears, Starburst or Skittles A small, calcium-rich chocolate kiss or a fresh pear
Granola bars that contain words like S’more, Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Natural protein bars or high-fiber vegetables such as parsley or broccoli, which can act as a natural toothbrush, along with some hummus.
Tootsie Pops, Jolly Rancher Stick of sugar-free gum that contains or frozen yogurt
Starchy foods like fries, white bread and pretzels High fiber breads or raw nuts
Acidic drinks like Gatorade, Soda Water, bubbly water or diet soda
Acidic foods like tomatoes and lemons Crunchy, foods like, apples, cucumbers, and celery which contain a lot of water

If you naturally gravitate toward less-than-healthy snack alternatives, try to limit the damage to your teeth by:

  • Choosing a clear-colored soda over a dark-colored one to avoid staining. Also drink it through a straw to avoid acid directly on teeth, and finish it quickly rather than sipping it all day.
  • Drinking water after eating anything with sugar in it to help flush away plaque, which is the sticky, colorless film of bacteria, on your teeth.
  • Complimenting acidic foods, like lemon or tomatoes, with other foods, like chicken or fish, to diminish the acid eating away at the tooth’s enamel.
  • Chewing on a piece of sugar-free gum to increase saliva that helps to cleanse the mouth if you don’t have a chance to brush after a meal.

Most of the millions of bacteria in your mouth are harmless, and normal body defenses and brushing and flossing will keep it under control. When you don’t maintain good oral hygiene by brushing regularly and eating healthy foods, it opens yourself up to not only issues with tooth decay, but also gum infections.

Also, don’t forget:  You might not realize that you are also contributing to their child’s tooth decay if you are not monitoring brushing.  For example, if your child has yet to master writing their name, they might not have the dexterity to brush properly. Or if your child receives a gummy vitamin, it’s better to give it before, rather than after, brushing so that the sugar from it doesn’t sit on the teeth all morning.

A summer visit to the dentist for an exam and cleaning can also help you to maintain good oral health. It’s a good time to nip summer time problems in the bud, as well as clear your calendar of a future appointment for the first half of the busy school year.

Dr. Abbey LaManna, DDS, welcomes all ages in her comfortable, private Lakeshore Family Dentistry office. It is located in Glendale and is also conveniently located near Whitefish Bay, Fox Point, River Hills and Bayside. Her goal is to keep your teeth healthy and provide a positive and relaxing dental experience.

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