Roseman Students Provide Free Dental Care to Children from Boys & Girls Club

Doctor of Dental Medicine students at Roseman University organized an event to provide free dental care to 46 children from the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salt Lake. It was part of Give Kids a Smile, a national event started by the American Dental Association that provides free dental care to hundreds of thousands of children at more than 1,500 events nationwide throughout the year.

Healthy lifestyles are a key component of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salt Lake, and Give Kids a Smile provides an opportunity for children to get free dental care. This is especially critical for children who do not have dental insurance, and may not be able to get this care otherwise.

“Untreated childhood dental decay affects about 16 million children in the U.S. every year, and is particularly prevalent in families that do not have insurance. Dental decay can contribute to a variety of issues including pain, missed school days, improper speech development, and difficulty sleeping and concentrating,” said Dr. Aaron Ferguson, Assistant Professor at Roseman University College of Dental Medicine and faculty advisor for the student group that organized Give Kids a Smile. “Fortunately it is also one of the most treatable conditions, and Roseman University dental students are excited to offer some basic dental care as well as education about caring for teeth that these children can use at home to improve their oral hygiene.”

Club members get at least 30 minutes of physical activity and healthy snacks at the local Boys & Girls Club, according to LeAnn Saldivar, CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salt Lake, but sometimes they don’t have access to quality health and dental care. To bridge that gap, Boys & Girls Club partners with organizations like Roseman University to get the care that children need to be healthy, regardless of whether or not they have insurance.

“It was so neat to see the smiles on the kids faces as they left our clinic,” said Cory Halterman, third-year dental student and one of the event organizers. “We all felt great after helping them.”

Safe-for-Your-Teeth Treats

With Valentine’s Day just behind us and Easter around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about indulgent treats and how they affect our bodies. Many people consider only calories as they think about the treats they want to eat around holiday seasons, but have you ever stopped to think about your teeth? Sugary treats can be harmful to your teeth. Here are some ways to have both a sweet and teeth-safe holiday.

Whole-Wheat Flour

One of the easiest tooth-friendly changes you can make is to substitute whole-wheat flour for standard white flour in your favorite recipes. White flour, as with all refined foods, quickly breaks down into simple sugar. This occurs while the food is still in your mouth. Bacteria in your mouth feast on this sugar, producing acid that breaks down your enamel. Whole wheat flour is harder to break down, and will not produce simple sugar as quickly as white flour will. If you find the flavor or texture of whole-wheat flour is too strong, try easing yourself into it by baking with half whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose or white flour. Then, gradually increase the amount of wheat flour. This works for any recipe that calls for flour, including rolls, cakes and holiday treats. You can also buy many bread products in whole-wheat or half-and-half varieties.

Alternatives to Refined Sugar

There are many things you can use instead of granulated sugar in your baking. Try substituting honey, real maple syrup, brown rice syrup or agave nectar next time you bake a delicious treat. Both honey and maple syrup have a lot of antioxidants in them. Another great alternative to sugar is fruit. Try adding applesauce, raisins, or pureed banana or apricots in place of some or all of the processed sugar in a recipe. Natural sugars are less harmful to your body than highly processed granulated sugar.

Non-Sugar Solutions

You can also eliminate all sugar from your recipe while baking and cooking this holiday season. This could mean choosing recipes that contain no sugar, like all-fruit sorbets or tart treats with sour or bitter flavor profiles. But it could also mean substituting artificial sugar for the real tooth-harming thing. If you’ve never tried them before, you could experiment with sugar alcohols such as erythritol or xylitol. Sugar alcohols are nearly calorie free, and are in fact good for your teeth—for that reason sugar alcohols are commonly added to some gums and toothpastes. They are not as sweet as sugar, so you may need to add a little extra, but overall they make an excellent sugar substitute. You can also try traditional artificial sweeteners, but beware of health benefits and drawbacks before you use them.

If you do consume treats from the store (often made with processed sugars), or you have some sugary treats without the healthy teeth substitutes, make sure you brush your teeth soon after to keep bacteria away.

Sometimes you want to indulge in a holiday treat, and by taking these steps you won’t have to worry about your teeth. Bake teeth-smart and enjoy your holidays.

How Sugar Harms Your Teeth

Sugar, while a tasty treat, is one of the most harmful substances that most people consume on a daily basis. In addition to being harmful to your metabolism, insulin, blood-sugar and energy levels, sugar can have a negative effect on your teeth as well.

The Breakdown

All carbohydrates will break down into simple sugars at some point after you eat them. Some will not break down until they are in your stomach or lower intestinal tract, but others begin to break down right away, as soon as they come into contact with amylase in your saliva. Carbohydrates that break down into simple sugars in your mouth can then leave those simple sugars on your teeth. If you don’t brush and floss them away, they become prime food for bacteria. As the bacteria feast on this sugary meal, they produce acid, which in turn eats away at your tooth enamel, and once enamel is lost it cannot be regenerated. Therefore it’s very important to protect the enamel you still have by brushing and flossing regularly.

Diet Change

You can also protect your teeth by avoiding the foods that break into simple sugars fastest. These include any food that contains a lot of processed sugar, including candy, pastries, baked goods, and sugary sodas or juices. Avoiding these foods will not only protect your tooth enamel, but will have the added benefit of lowering your risk for heart disease, obesity and certain cancers. Other less obvious foods to avoid include anything white and refined, including white bread, crackers, rice, pasta, and so on. These foods can be nutritious if you eat the whole grain versions, but the white, highly processed versions contain few nutrients, and break down quickly into simple sugars that can damage your teeth. To check for sugar content, look for anything with the name “sugar”, or anything that ends in “-ose” such as sucrose, fructose, dextrose, etc.

Timing

Another factor in the sugar/tooth decay relationship is time. Simply put, the longer you wait to brush your teeth after you eat, the more tooth decay will occur. After you eat, and even while you are still eating, bacteria begin feasting on the sugars in your mouth and producing harmful acid. The goal for a healthy mouth is to remove that acid as soon as possible. Lucky for you, your saliva has some anti-bacterial properties. But this alone is not enough to keep your mouth clean and free of acid. Brush as soon as you can after eating. And if you can’t brush right away, pop in some gum, preferably the sugar-free kind that is sweetened with Xylitol, as this artificial sweetener has been shown to help prevent tooth decay. Also keep in mind that the more often you eat, the more opportunities sugar has to build up in your mouth, feeding hungry bacteria. If you snack often, be sure to brush often, too.

Brushing and flossing soon after eating is the best way to prevent tooth decay. Keep a travel toothbrush handy in your purse, car or desk, and brush your teeth often for optimal oral health. Then be sure to visit your dentist every six months for a professional cleaning to remove any lingering plaque.