Whether you have school-aged children in your house or not, it seems that breaks in the school year alter many ‘normal’ routines. As Mom of two boys, I know how my schedule is affected by their ‘off’ days from school. For their grandparents and other relatives, we all seem to adjust our trips and gatherings around the school calendar.
With summertime comes more time outdoors along with outings to the beach, lake, or visits with relatives. These times can be blissful — sleeping late, eating foods that we’d normally avoid (Yay! Double Chocolate ice-cream!), colas with grilled burgers, and poolside Margaritas. After all, we’re on vacation!!! Most of us even give our kids a ‘pass’ as they slather french fries with catsup, telling ourselves that’s their meal’s veggie!
The goal is to relish the joys of your away time without coming home to deal with potential repercussions. When our schedules lack the actions that help us prevent things like cavities and gum disease, the penalty can include treatment time and expense for dental repairs. We want to help you avoid developing these problems and still indulge in well-deserved fun.
Below are a few ways you and your family can minimize the risk to your smiles:
• Keep bottled water handy: Drinking plain water is good for your entire body, especially your mouth. During warmer months and times when we are more active, our bodies simply need more hydration. Your mouth, which is coated in gum tissues that are moist and absorbent, relies on saliva. Having adequate saliva flow helps to rinse oral bacteria away. When saliva flow is sufficient, it helps to keep bacteria levels in the mouth to a manageable level (with the added help of twice-daily brushing and flossing). When you don’t drink enough water, saliva flow slows down and oral bacteria are able to accumulate easier. When drinking sodas or other sweetened or acidic beverages, be sure to drink water between each 8 ounces or so. This will replenish oral moisture and cleanse oral bacteria from the mouth, lessening your risk for decay or gum inflammation.
• Keep sugarless chewing gum nearby: As the above mentions, saliva flow plays a major role in keeping oral bacteria to manageable levels. Chewing gum tends to stimulate saliva flow, helping it to surge forward and sweep away bacteria and food particles as you swallow. Just be sure to select sugar-free gum. The sugar in some gum tends to ‘feed’ oral bacteria already in the mouth, defeating the good that can be done.
• Watch your sugar intake: Sugar breaks down in the mouth and creates a reaction that provides oral bacteria with a ‘super food.’ Simple carbohydrates (crackers, chips, white potatoes, white rice, etc.) have this same effect. Rather than order a waffle cone of Crunchy Monkey, think about the amount of sugar and carbs and consider sugar-free yogurt in a cup. (Your scales will thank you in addition to your smile!) Choose beer or wine over a daiquiri, iced coffee without the ‘shot’ or whipped cream, and an omelet over pancakes. You’ll still be indulging, just in a wiser way.
• Keep caffeine and alcohol intake in check: Just being aware of something that can pose a risk can help us make better decisions. Many people are surprised to hear that caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate) has a drying effect on oral tissues, as does alcohol. Again, when the mouth is dry, oral bacteria can run rampant. As mentioned above, keep bottled water nearby when drinking these beverages to wash over oral tissues periodically while indulging. If possible, consider swishing with water between drinks (and perhaps with every bathroom break).
• Stick to your oral hygiene routine: When my boys are on vacation, they wake up focused on one thing: POOL! It can be hard to get them focused on starting their day with a good breakfast and proper brushing, but that time is well worth the investment. When unpacking once you arrive at Grandma’s or the hotel, place your toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss beside the bathroom sink where they’ll be seen each time you go in. This way, you’ll be reminded to tend to your oral hygiene with the tools you need already at hand. Take your time and brush for at least two minutes per brushing and floss daily (which takes less than 2 minutes). Brush with your children to make sure they’re doing an adequate job. Make it a group effort! After all, the money you may save by preventing cavities could be earmarked for added fun during your next vacation!
• Schedule your dental exam and cleaning to follow your getaway: When oral bacteria are not removed every day, the build up, which is a sticky film known as plaque, can harden on teeth. This is called tartar or calculus and can only be removed by special tools used by dental professionals. It can no longer be brushed or flossed away. When you have a dental cleaning following a trip that disrupts normal, at-home oral hygiene routines, we can remove plaque and tartar buildup, often before damage is done. Remember – a cleaning requires far less time and expense than filling a cavity or having treatment for gum disease.
This summer, and all through the year, be committed to your smile by making healthy smile decisions and helping your family follow suit. Our goal is to help you avoid problems and have a bright, worry-free smile all year. If you’d like help with your flossing technique or need personalized instruction, ask our hygienist at your next visit. Or, watch the short video on our web site: https://www.banrbarbatdds.com/videos/#flossing-tips
Have a fabulous summer and smile often!