To help teach the community how to maintain adult, child, and infant dental health we had a Zoom session on Wednesday, June 16th, 2021, with guest speakers Kathleen Malico, a NYS Registered Dental Hygienist and Dental Wellness Coordinator at Liberty Dental Plan, and Joaquina Hamilton-Sheehan, a Certified Dental Assistant and Dental Wellness Administrator at Liberty Dental Plan. You can view our workshop here in English and Chinese.
The following are highlights of our workshop:
What is periodontal disease (a.k.a. gum disease)?
Periodontal Disease is inflammation at and below the gum line that can progress to affect the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth, and eventually lead to tooth loss.
The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that causes irritation, redness and inflammation of your gums. It is important to take gingivitis seriously and have it treated. Gingivitis can lead to a much more serious stage of gum disease called periodontitis and tooth loss. The early stage of gum disease is reversible. Sometimes, all it takes are more regular professional cleanings and better home care. If you have bleeding when you brush or floss (if you see pink or red on your toothbrush or floss or when you spit out) you want to be very thorough when cleaning your mouth, if it does not resolve in about a week or if you continue to have a bad taste or irritation you definitely want to see your dentist.
What are the warning signs of gum disease?
You may not be aware that you have gum disease because often there is no pain.
You want to watch for warning signs, and you should call your dentist if you experience any of the following:
• Gums that bleed easily
• Red, swollen, or tender gums
• Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
• Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
• Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
What is plaque?
Plaque is a sticky film, filled with bacteria that builds up and adheres to your teeth. The bacteria in plaque produce acids, which eat away at the tooth’s enamel and may lead to tooth decay. Plaque can also cause gum disease and bad breath. It is believed that over 90% of dental disease is caused by plaque build up in your mouth.
Tartar builds up on your teeth and can hold onto the plaque and irritate your gums. Tartar is a hard substance that can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist.
How do I know if my gums are healthy?
Healthy gums are flat and kind of look like an orange peel in appearance. They are not puffy and shiny and do not bleed when you brush or floss. Healthy gums are light pink; however, people do have different pigmentations and colors on their gums like they do on their skin.
Why are regular check-ups important?
During an examination, your mouth is evaluated for cavities and periodontal disease. The Dentist or Dental Hygienist will also check your mouth, head and neck for signs of oral cancer. You can help prevent dental decay and gum disease by practicing good oral health techniques and eating a healthy diet.
If you have any questions on how to brush and floss properly, to ensure you are removing as much plaque and bacteria as possible, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist, and he/she will show you how to properly brush, floss and maintain oral health.
You can also help prevent dental decay and gum disease by practicing good oral health techniques and eating a healthy diet. Set a good example with healthy habits for your children.
How is oral health related to overall health?
Research suggests that there may be a link between gum disease and other health concerns such as cardiovascular problems, stroke, and increased risk during pregnancy.
The common link between heart disease, stroke and oral health is inflammation. People with poor oral health have higher rates of cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack or stroke. The bacteria that infect the gums and cause gingivitis and periodontitis have been shown to cause blood vessel inflammation and damage in the form of tiny blood clots. Heart attack and stroke may follow.
Lung conditions, such as pneumonia, COPD, and bronchitis have also been linked to gum disease. People with partial or full dentures may have food stuck between their teeth, which can lead to germs that can be inhaled into the lungs, and cause bacterial respiratory infections.
Diabetes also influences oral health. Diabetes weakens the immune system and makes it harder to fight infection and can cause damage to many parts of the body. Diabetes also causes dry mouth, which can lead to cavities. Individuals with diabetes have a higher risk for infection, such as gum disease and thrush, cavities, sores, and ulcers.
Does pregnancy affect oral health?
Pregnant women are more susceptible to gingivitis and other oral bacterial infections. During pregnancy, some women may find they are prone to inflammation of the gums called pregnancy gingivitis—a mild form of gum disease that causes gums to be red, tender, and sore. You can prevent pregnancy gingivitis by keeping your teeth clean. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings to help control gingivitis. If you notice any changes in your mouth during pregnancy, see your dentist. If gingivitis is not treated, it can lead to more serious gum disease.
Child Dental Care:
How can I protect my infant’s oral health?
Cavities are an infectious childhood disease, meaning that the germs that cause dental cavities are transferred from person to person through their saliva. The bacteria that causes gum disease and cavities can unknowingly pass from the parent or caregiver who has dental disease, to the infants and children they care for. It is very important to not share utensils, food or drinks with infants and young children. Bacteria will feed off what your child eats and drinks. If the child’s diet is high in sugar, and the teeth are not cleaned well, the chance of getting cavities is much higher.
When feeding your baby, you must ensure that your baby does not go to sleep drinking a bottle of milk or juice. When this happens, the liquid will pool inside the mouth between the cheek and the teeth. The acids and sugars in the milk and juice can start to eat away at the enamel on the teeth. This is what is called “baby bottle mouth “or decay.
Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding after the baby eats, or at least two to 3 times a day, it is very important to take a small damp cloth or infant finger brush and clean the baby’s gums. This will clean plaque off the gums, aid in teething and get your child used to having their mouth cleaned and help to transition to toothbrushing once the teeth start to erupt.
How often should I brush my child’s teeth?
Children up to about the age of 6 years old will need help brushing their teeth and using dental floss. Everyone should be brushing 2 times a day for 2 minutes and should be visiting the Dentist 2 times a year!
For children under the age of 2 you only need to use a tiny dot of fluoride toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice. Once the child is about 2 years old you can use a bit of toothpaste about the size of a pea. It is important to have a grown up help them with brushing. Toddlers and young children do not have the coordination necessary to correctly clean their teeth. It is also very important to remember that each family member should have their own toothbrush. If the teeth are touching each other, using floss every day will help prevent cavities from starting in between the teeth.
Why is it important to treat decayed baby teeth?
Many people do not realize the importance of baby teeth. Baby teeth will hold the place for the adult teeth to come in. If there is decay on a baby tooth, that bacteria can have a bad effect on the adult teeth coming into their mouth.
The earlier the child has a dental visit the less likely they are to develop dental problems. Unfortunately, dental problems are the primary reason that children in this country miss school. Children miss school from dental decay more than they do from the common cold or asthma.
Even if your child has dental decay now, once the decay is removed and the child has filling they can avoid ever getting another cavity. If your child has had them in the past it does not mean that in the future, they will keep getting them.
Which foods should my child avoid?
Your child should not be having sticky foods, candy, soda or sugary drinks like juices or sports drinks every day. Those foods should be limited. A healthy diet is the key to a healthy mouth. The worst thing for a child’s teeth is sticky chewy food. Gummy bears, fruit roll ups, fruit snacks, even dried fruits like raisins, dried figs, dates, or apricots can stick on the teeth and in between the teeth for long periods of time and can be harder to brush off.
Encourage your child to eat more fruits and vegetables and choose water over sugary drinks. Having the children help with picking the healthy foods and even preparing them can help to build healthier eating habits.
When should I start taking my child to the dentist?
It is recommended to take children to the dentist when their first tooth comes in.
How can my child have a more enjoyable experience during their dental visit?
Having a “Dental Home” helps produce and maintain a healthy smile. Families are encouraged to build a relationship with their dental office, so they have a great “Dental Home.” A positive dental environment will encourage all members of the family to have regular dental checkups.
If a child had a bad dental experience or is apprehensive, it is good to take them when their teeth feel good, not just when they have a problem or are experiencing discomfort. Going to the dentist when you are in pain can set them up for a lifetime of fear and having dental phobia. If you yourself are afraid of the dentist, you can pass those fears along to the child. You don’t want to use words like scary, pain or hurt. Instead use words like strong, clean, and healthy. Don’t worry if your child cries. Children crying is normal. You want to stay calm and reassure them, then they will see that it is ok to be at the dentist. Sometimes it takes a few visits to get them comfortable enough to jump into the chair and have their teeth counted and cleaned.
Practice at home with your child and have “play” dental visits. Talk to them about how important healthy smiles are to everyone. Once your child realizes the dentist is a happy place it will build the foundation for a lifetime of healthy teeth. With good habits and the proper diet children can keep their teeth for the rest of their lives without pain or difficulty eating or speaking.