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Making the right choices key to oral health

While many residents may be under the impression that fruit juices are better for their teeth and gums than soft drinks, when it comes to oral health that isn't true, says Sundre dentist Dr. Richard Kolen.

While many residents may be under the impression that fruit juices are better for their teeth and gums than soft drinks, when it comes to oral health that isn't true, says Sundre dentist Dr. Richard Kolen.

“Fruit is healthy, but when it is made into a juice form it has more potential of pulling the calcium out of the teeth, even though it's a natural product,” said Dr. Kolen. “It's kind of a combination of drinking the juice and leaving it on the teeth. Typically, and especially with younger children, they are sipping all the time so there is an increased exposure time and an increased calcium pull out of the teeth.

“As well, there are natural sugars (in the juice) that end up feeding the bacteria that causes tooth decay as well.”

April is oral health month in Canada, a time set aside to promote oral health and the way it can impact a person's overall health and well-being.

Dr. Kolen noted that the sugar content in most fruit juices is similar to sugar soft drinks, “so that is kind of alarming when we come to realize that.”

As far as soda pop made with artificial sweeteners, he said there is still the potential for calcium pull out of the teeth.

“What happens is if you have someone who already has a lot of tooth decay and they are drinking sugar-free drinks, the problem is that the acid actually lowers the pH of the saliva and that lower pH saliva actually promotes the growth of the bacteria that causes tooth decay,” he said.

As far as milk drinking, and in particular by youngsters, he said, “If we have infants who are sucking on a bottle or sippy cup what you end up having is a pooling of the milk inside the mouth and the lactose is broken down by the bacteria that again causes tooth decay.

“Typically with an adult, they drink from a cup and they swallow quite a bit, so it's not as much of an issue.”

Asked what people should be drinking when it comes to oral health, he said water.

There are dental products now available that can add calcium to teeth in adults, he noted.

The Canadian Dental Association (CDA), which spearheads Oral Health Month in Canada, says repeated studies have shown that poor oral health can affect a person's quality of life.

For example, CDA researchers have found links between oral disease and health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, as well as pre-term and low-birth-weight babies.

“Oral pain, missing teeth or oral infections can influence the way a person speaks, eats and socializes,” the CDA said. “These oral health problems can reduce a person's quality of life by affecting their physical, mental and social well-being.”

This year the Canadian Dental Association has provided five suggestions to promote good oral health:

First, see your dentist regularly -

• Regular dental exams and professional cleanings are the best way to prevent problems or to stop small problems from getting worse.

• A dentist will look for signs of oral disease. Oral diseases often go unnoticed and may lead to or be a sign of serious health problems in other parts of the body.

• Only a dentist has the training, skill and expertise to diagnose and treat oral health diseases and to meet all oral health-care needs.

Second, keep your mouth clean -

• Brush teeth and tongue at least twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque and bacteria that cause cavities and periodontal disease (gum disease).

• Floss every day. If you don't floss, you are missing more than a third of your tooth surface.

• A dentist may also recommend that a patient use a fluoride or antimicrobial mouth rinse to help prevent cavities or gum disease.

• When choosing oral care products, look for the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) Seal of Recognition. Oral care products that have earned the Seal of Recognition have been reviewed by CDA and will effectively contribute to oral health.

Third, eat healthy foods and drinks -

• Healthy food is good for general health and oral health. The nutrients that come from healthy foods help fight cavities and gum disease.

Four, check your mouth regularly -

• Look for warning signs of periodontal disease (gum disease) such as red, shiny, puffy, sore or sensitive gums; bleeding when you brush or floss; or bad breath that won't go away.

• Look for warning signs of oral cancer. The three most common sites for oral cancer are the sides and bottom of the tongue and the floor of the mouth.

Five, avoid all tobacco products -

• Stained and missing teeth, infected gums and bad breath are just some of the ways smoking can affect your oral health.

• All forms of tobacco are dangerous to oral health, not just cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco such as chewing tobacco, snuff and snus can cause mouth, tongue and lip cancer and can be more addictive than cigarettes.

Last year approximately 3,200 Canadians were diagnosed with oral cancer and 1,050 deaths occurred from oral cancer, the CDS said.