Helpful videos from the American Dental Association

These helpful videos from The American Dental Association with provide you with useful tips and best practices toward maintaining dental health in between visits to the dentist!

3 Things All Athletes Should Do for Their Teeth

Provided courtesy of Mouth Healthy, The American Dental Association

Dentist Dr. Thomas Long has seen firsthand what can happen when “the puck stops here.” In addition to seeing everyday athletes in his private practice, Dr. Long (a former college hockey player himself) is the team dentist for the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes.

No matter what sport or skill level, Dr. Long says athletes need to take care of their teeth both on and off the field. “Most athletes are careful about what they eat and their workout routine. Part of that routine should include taking care of your mouth and teeth every single day,” he says. “It would be a shame to miss practice or a game because you are in the dentist’s office receiving treatment or recovering from a dental surgical procedure.”

Here, Dr. Long shares his playbook for a healthy mouth.

Make a Mouthguard Part of Your Uniform

Helmet? Check. Knee pads? Check. Mouthguard? Check! Mouthguards usually cover your upper teeth and protect your teeth, lips, tongue, face and jaw against injuries, so they need to be part of your uniform in any sport you play.

Wearing a mouthguard regularly becomes second nature. It does not matter what type of mouthguard you choose, just make sure it fits properly. “The athletes I see feel better when they start wearing them, and they feel a little naked without them after they get used to them,” Dr. Long says

In fact, many sports won’t let you play without one. Dr. Long says USA Hockey requires all youth players to wear a mouthguard. “The referees have to be able to see it, and it has to be colored,” he says. “I think that’s a great idea.”

Sideline Sugary Sports Drinks

If you need to quench your thirst, reach for water instead of a sports drink. “People are trying to rehydrate, but there may be a lot of sugar in those drinks,” Dr. Long says.

The bacteria in your mouth will use the sugar from your sports drink to produce an acid that weakens the hard outer shell of your teeth, which may increase your risk for cavities over time.

In his experience with the Hurricanes, Dr. Long says he doesn’t often see professional athletes drinking sports drinks. “Their diets are so well-managed they just don’t have a lot of sugar,” he says. “They make their own sports drinks, and they’re more high-protein shakes than sugary sports drinks.”

Brush, Floss, Rinse, Repeat

Practice makes perfect when you’re mastering the skills of any sport, so do the same with your daily dental habits. Dr. Long says an unhealthy tooth is more likely to be damaged if a sports injury happens. “A tooth that has had a lot of decay and a lot of fillings is nowhere near as strong as a tooth that has not had decay and has not had a lot of fillings,” he says.

Keep your smile strong by brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing once a day. Then, in the home stretch of your daily dental routine, use an ADA-Accepted mouthwash.

Natural Teeth Whitening: Fact vs. Fiction

Provided courtesy of Mouth Healthy, The American Dental Association

When it comes to teeth whitening, you may see many different methods featured online and in magazines—from oil pulling to charcoal, and even turmeric. It’s no surprise that DIY whitening is top of mind, either. When the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry asked people what they’d most like to improve their smile, the most common response was whiter teeth.

Healthy smiles come in many shades, though it’s tempting to think ingredients in our own kitchens could hold the key to a brighter smile. Still, just because a method is natural doesn’t mean it’s healthy. In fact, DIY whitening can do more harm than good to your teeth. Here’s how:

Fruits

Fiction:
The approach maintains you can make your teeth whiter and brighter using household staples that are naturally acidic (like lemons, oranges, apple cider vinegar), contain digestive enzymes (such as pineapple or mango) and something that is abrasive (like baking soda).

Fact:
When eaten as usual, fruit is a great choice. However, fruit and vinegar contain acid, and you put your pearly whites at risk when you prolong their contact with your teeth or use them to scrub your teeth because acid can wear away your enamel. Enamel is the thin outer coating of your teeth that protects you from tooth sensitivity and cavities.

Scrubs

Activated charcoal
Fiction:
These methods claim that scrubbing your teeth with ingredients like activated charcoal or a baking soda-hydrogen peroxide paste will bring a shine back to your smile.

Fact:
Using materials that are too abrasive on your teeth can actually make them look more yellow. Enamel is what you’re looking to whiten, but if you’re using a scrub that is too rough, you can actually wear it away. When that happens, the next layer of your tooth can become exposed – a softer, yellow tissue called dentin.

Instead, choose a whitening toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. The Seal lets you know the toothpaste you choose is safe, effective and won’t damage your teeth.

Spices and Oils

Turmeric powder

Fiction:
Swishing oils like coconut oil in your mouth (oil pulling) or using spices like turmeric can help whiten your teeth.

Fact:
There is no reliable scientific evidence to show oil pulling or turmeric whitens teeth. Save the oil and spices for healthy meals instead.

Still Interested in Whitening?

The best natural ways to keep your teeth white are everyday healthy habits, including:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes
  • Use a whitening toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance
  • Cleaning between your teeth once a day
  • Limiting foods that stain your teeth, like coffee, tea and red wine\
  • Not smoking or using tobacco
  • Regular visits to your dentist for checkups and cleanings
  • If you want to try a specific whitening product or service, just talk to your dentist before you begin.
  • Whitening may not work on all teeth, and if you are a candidate, some methods—whether at-home or in the dental office—may be better for your teeth than others.

The Truth About Sugary Drinks and Your Smile

By Ida Gorshteyn,
UCLA School of Dentistry student
Provided courtesy of Mouth Healthy, The American Dental Association

Sweetened beverages have become a treat that many Americans have every day. The truth is that these drinks are not healthy, especially for our dental health and smiles. Everyone has harmful bacteria in their mouths that eat the sugars we consume. The bacteria get energy from the sugar, but in the process produce acid. The acid they make can damage teeth, causing cavities to form or erosion to occur.

Some of the most common beverages that Americans drink actually have loads of sugar, even drinks that are marketed as “healthy” or “all natural”. If you think you’re safe with drinks like juice, think again! A glass of apple juice can contain a similar amount of sugar to glass of soda. According to the USDA, sugar should make up no more than 10% of your daily calories. For women, that is 10-15 tsp. per day. For men, it’s 12.5-18.75 tsp. Just one glass of that apple juice would put many people at (or just under) their entire daily limit.

Eliminating sugary beverages from our diets would be best, but reducing the number of sugary beverages you consume and substituting healthier options with less sugar is already a step in the right direction. Here is a list of drinks that are full of sugar and drinks that are better choices.

Lots of Sugar

  • Soda
  • Energy drinks
  • Chocolate milk
  • Smoothies
  • Fruit punch or juice

Better Choices

  • Water
  • Unsweetened tea
  • Milk
  • Plain sparkling water
  • Diluted juice

All of the drinks in the better choice column have little or no sugar. That means they won’t give the bacteria in your mouth a chance to cause trouble and make acid that can damage your teeth. Water can also contain fluoride, which protects teeth against cavities. The calcium in milk also helps keep your teeth strong. If you or your children are allergic to cow’s milk, try unsweetened milk substitute (such as almond, soy, rice) with added calcium.

If you find you can’t resist your morning cup of sweetened coffee, tea, or juice, there still are some things you can do to help protect your teeth. Here are some suggestions to consider.

Drink, don’t sip. Sipping gives the bacteria more time to eat the sugar and to create cavities. Drink quickly to give your body time to wash away the bad stuff. Try to drink sweetened coffees, teas or sodas in one sitting instead of sipping on them over a longer amount of time. If you give your child juice, have them drink it with meals only, and put only water in a sippy cup they might carry around during the day.

Fluoride is your friend. If your community’s water is fluoridated, drink tap water to improve your dental health. Fluoride protects teeth and has re-duced the number of cavities across the nation.

Brush and clean between your teeth. Brush your teeth twice a day and clean between your teeth once a day. Ask your dentist about the best way to do this. Help all kids under the age of eight to brush and floss well, and be sure to visit to your dentist regularly.

Knowing what drinks contain sugar and that sugar-sweetened drinks can hurt your dental health is a good start. Set some goals for your family to follow these tips. Good habits begin at a young age, so help your kids make healthy decisions about what they choose to drink. Set a positive example, and you will all have healthier smiles and a healthier future.