Monday, 28 September 2015

Tooth Friendly Nutrition for the Active (and Scheduled) Child

For the busy child, risk of dental caries (cavities) is high. Being out of the house for long periods of time means eating on the go. I find myself face to face with an important question when supporting the dental health of busy families in our communities: How can I provide easy to use information so parents feel empowered to feed their kids tooth friendly snacks on the road between school, dance, swim, hockey, piano, etc.? 

The landscape of articles on healthy and time convenient snacks for kids on the go is vast. Detailed lists of ingenious recipes are an easy Google search away. The parental toolbox is full, and back pockets of tricks are brimming at the seams, but with that, I would like to squeeze another conversation into the mix – one that focuses on food choices for nutrition breaks supporting dental health.

For busy families the equation can be quite simple by choosing tooth healthy foods and limiting the frequency (not amount) of carbohydrates. This means enjoying a nutrition period of 10-15 minutes, followed by a couple of hours of no food (water only). Carving out time for our teeth to have a break allows acids in the mouth to neutralize and teeth to re-mineralize rather than decay.

The goal of a nutrition period is to nourish the child with plentiful energy.This can be done by enjoying snacks full of proteins and fats while limiting the carbohydrates to crisp veggies and fruits, which won’t stick easily to our teeth.  Proteins and fats are ideal sources of energy– you get more calories per gram of food and it won’t get metabolized by cavity causing bacteria, meaning only your child gets fed, not their sugar bugs.

Here is a list of some great on the go tooth healthy foods to include in your child’s nutrition break:
Veggies such as carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, peppers, snap peas
Kale chips or dried seaweed
Dairy choices such as plain yogurt and cheese cubs
Pepperoni sticks
Nuts and sugar free nut butters or soy butter alternatives
Tofu sticks

As the title of this article suggest these ideas are for active and scheduled children, meaning busy parents too. If buying packaged foods is your time saving go to, be sure to read the Nutrition Facts box, selecting products with higher fats and proteins and lower carbohydrates and sugars.

It is what we eat and when we eat that make a significant impact on dental health for kids and for the whole family. Adding these tips to your child’s daily routine will make them feel satiated and energized while making their teeth, mouth, and of course their dentist smile! 

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Sugar Bug Poop – The Source of Tooth Decay

Tooth decay, cavities or dental caries – Where does it begin and why does it end in a filling, crown, root canal or worse, extraction?  As some of you know from my previous article “The Modern Tooth Brusher”, I have a young infant, and sometimes it feels like poop preoccupies a whole lot of the day – so today I am making the science fun and talking in those terms.

Cavities are caused by an interaction of many events. My fun explanation goes as follows: Sugar Bugs (bacteria) eat the food we eat and POOP on our teeth (make acid). The Sugar Bugs’ POOP destroys the hard surface of our teeth leading to holes, which are commonly called CAVITIES.

Sugar bugs are actually pretty picky eaters, but that doesn’t mean only candies will cause cavities.  In fact, nearly every carbohydrate (bread, rice, pasta, cookies, crackers, chips, cereals etc.) going into our mouth is broken down by spit (saliva) into simple sugars. These simple sugars are the food bacteria use for energy, and the POOP (waste product) they make is an acid (among other things).

Even before a hole occurs, there are early warning signs of decay. Fuzzy white sticky film (plaque) hides sugar bugs by the millions upon millions.  Their mere presence puts us at risk; it is only a matter of time before they leave cavity-forming POOP.

So what’s the big deal if Sugar Bugs are Pooping all over your teeth anyways? Aside from how gross this realization is, that Poop is really harmful stuff.  The Poop is a combination of acids, with the primary ingredient being vinegar (acetic acid).  Take pause from the dental world and think of the ways we use      vinegar – especially cleaning and descaling your kettle or coffee maker.

Try this fun experiment: take an uncooked egg and paint a smiley face on it with clear nail polish. Let it dry completely.  Now place it in a cup of vinegar on the counter and leave it there for up to two weeks. Take notes daily.  The smiley face is protected from the vinegar.

Acids dissolve minerals, and our teeth are made up of minerals just like the eggshell.  The bottom line is if you expose your teeth to acids for long enough, they will break down.

If you scratch off that sticky white stuff from your teeth (a tooth brush works well), you may see hiding under the film a white spot. A WHITE SPOT on a tooth can be the first visible sign of mineral loss. WHITE SPOTS are strong risk factors for developing a cavity, and aggressive risk management should be taking place on a daily basis. Left unmanaged, the Sugar Bugs’ Poop will wash away the hard surface of our teeth and a cavity will develop.

Start managing the sugar bugs daily: be cognizant of what you eat and how often, brush your teeth, floss, use a fluoride toothpaste and visit your dentist regularly for continuing care.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Dr. Daniel Charland BMSc, DDS, Cert Ped. Dent., MS, FRCD(C)
Certified Specialist in Pediatric Dentistry
Burlington Pediatric Dentistry

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Modern Tooth Brusher

I’ve recently entered the world of parenthood, and I finally relate – children can be consuming. With all of the daily must-dos, plus taking a moment to enjoy their charm, it’s hard to add on extras. However, we are losing the battle against dental decay. When half of children will have had dental decay by grade one and nearly all the rest by the time they finish high school, it is vital to make time for brushing and flossing your little one’s teeth. I remember being given an hourglass and told to brush my teeth until all the sand emptied to the bottom compartment. While old-school tactics are still valid, the digital age has many exciting tools to make oral hygiene more fun in your home.

Watch While You Brush
A short video clip is a great distraction to increase brushing duration. has a parent resource section and a series of videos each about 2 minutes long from the Cartoon Network that can be watched during tooth brushing. 

There’s a Free APP for That
Toothsavers Brushing Game can be played in real time while brushing.  It incudes an interactive brushing chart that rewards children, a parents section for monitoring progress, and different characters for each child. Key features are a 2-minute timer, a brushing tracker, a flossing reminder and FUN.

Go Electric
Use an electric toothbrush, but don’t cheap out! Independent studies have shown a quality electric brush cleans teeth better than a handheld toothbrush, most of the time.  Select a toothbrush with a RECHARGEABLE battery and a SMALL REPLACEABLE head.  A built in timer (2 minutes) is helpful. Pick a brand you trust, such as Sonicare kids or Oral B. If the design isn’t fun, decorate the brush with stickers.  

Don’t Forget to FLOSS
The math is simple, there are 5 surfaces to each tooth (front, back, inside, outside and chewing top), and where teeth touch tightly together our toothbrush can’t clean. That means, for even the best tooth brushers, not flossing leaves 2 out of 5 spots on each tooth dirty.  Try cute, child-friendly floss picks to make the job easier.

Get Involved
Be creative! Get out of the bathroom and have a brushing dance party, brush during TV time or all together. Finding a way that works in your household to make oral hygiene a family activity will turn brushing and flossing into quality time spent together, and will improve the oral health of your whole family.

Remember until a child can tie their own shoes, they need adult help for tooth brushing. Flossing is harder yet and not usually mastered until about age 12.  Take your children to a Pediatric Dentist for regular cleanings, exams and motivation!

Dr. Daniel Charland BMSc, DDS, Cert Ped. Dent., MS, FRCD(C)
Certified Specialist in Pediatric Dentistry
Burlington Pediatric Dentistry     

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Why First Tooth, First Visit?

It used to be that women smoked during their pregnancies, that infants were carried on a parent’s lap in a moving car, and that children rode bikes without helmets.  All of these sound like stories that my parents told me, but why don’t we do those things anymore? It can’t just be because a parent told us not to, or that we “know better” now.  And it’s unlikely the anti-tobacco lobby is out-campaigning Big Tobacco to reduce smoking during pregnancy, it is more likely the reduction of pre-term delivery, surrounding complications and decrease risk of SIDS. The CDC states car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants by 71%[1] and bicycle helmets reduce the risk of brain injury from a moderate speed crash from 99% to less than 10%[2], amazing! Even with all these statistics, the simple answers to why we don’t do these things anymore are all pretty similar – making a change in our behaviour results in better health outcomes for our offspring.

The problem is that even though the recommendations are pretty clear on car seat use for example, what is the probability that using a car seat will help your child? If you never get in an accident and are gentle in your actions, again the risks are low, but how can you predict that you will never be in a car accident? You simply cannot, statistics are against you, unless you’re a gambler, but I am not encouraging leaving your child’s well being to chance. The changes in recommendations must be considered on a population level, not at the individual level.

What does all of this have to do with the title, Why First Tooth, First Visit?  Just because historically children were not seen by a dentist until the age of three or older does not mean it is in the child’s best interest. Early visits, at the time of a child’s first tooth can help provide the tools and resources to families that lead to a lifetime of good oral health. Just like the investment of a car seat, early dental visits can help give you the information required to lead your children to safety. Think of the well child visits that a paediatrician or family doctor recommends, and add one more wellness check to the list: When you see your child’s first tooth, your child should see a dentist.

Dr. Daniel Charland
BMSc, DDS, MS, Cert. Ped. Dent., FRCD(C)

Dr. Daniel is a certified Pediatric Dentist, he is the owner of Burlington Pediatric Dentistry and Adjunct Professor at University of The Pacific.

[1]  Durbin, D. R. (2011). Technical report—Child passenger safetyPediatrics, 127(4). Advance online publication. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-0215
[2] Cripton, al. (2014) .  Bicycle helmets are highly effective at preventing head injury during head impact: head-form accelerations and injury criteria for helmeted and unhelmeted impacts. Accid Anal Prev.  Sep;70:1-7.