Brush away sugar, tooth decay

Published 11:59 pm Friday, November 27, 2009

The holiday season is usually a sweet time for dentists.

Dr. William King Jr. of Andalusia Dental Group said the months following Halloween are typically the busiest of the year for his practice, but not necessarily for the reasons most people might think.

“Obviously kids eat a lot of candy around Halloween, but it takes about six months for cavities to form, so that’s not really why business picks up in the holidays,” he said. “The main reason is that the kids are out of school more often, so parents have an easier time of getting their kids to the dentist during the school break.”

While sugar-caused tooth decay can take a while to form, King said there are other dental problems that occur more quickly when young teeth spend too much time gnashing on holiday sweets.

“We see chipped and broken teeth from sticky candy all the time,” he said. “This time of year, there are lots of parents making appointments because a kid’s filling came out because of some really sticky candy, and things like that.”

King said there is no reason to hold off on the sweets during the holiday season, but it is important to always practice good dental hygiene. He recommends that anyone who eats sweets quickly brush and rinse with water immediately following that binge of Halloween candy or slice of pumpkin pie.

“The most critical thing is that you don’t ever go to bed without brushing at all,” he said. “That sticky food has 10 to 12 hours where it’s just sitting on your teeth, and it has all night to secrete that acid that leads to tooth decay. At the very least, make sure to give your teeth a good brushing right before bed.

“Ideally, you’ll want to brush right after getting up in the morning, right before bed, and then at least once during the day.”

Also, he said that if someone decides to enjoy a sweet drink or dessert, it is better to eat it quickly.

“Sugar can be bad, but it’s worse if you have it on your teeth for a long duration,” he said. “If you decide to have a soda or another sweet drink, it’s better to drink it all at once rather than throughout the day. And anytime you’ve had something sweet, if you don’t have time to brush, it’s important to at least drink some clean water to rinse your mouth.”

King noted it’s important for parents to especially be diligent with dental hygiene for their younger children.

“Try to limit the kinds of sugar and the amount of sugar for little kids,” he said. “And be sure to give them a good brushing right away afterwards. It’s never too early to learn good dental habits.”

The American Dental Association recommends the following for good oral hygiene, not just during the holiday season, but year-round:

Brush your teeth twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.

Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner. Decay–causing bacteria still linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles can’t reach. This helps remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.

Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.

Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.

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