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Is there a connection between oral health and school performance?

January 18th, 2017

As a parent, you want the best for your children, and that includes doing their best in school. You can support them by taking an interest in their activities, being enthusiastic about attendance, and helping them with homework. There may also be one more way you can help your children succeed at school. Surprisingly, research suggests that children with better oral health are likely to do better in school.

What the Research Says

One study in North Carolina looked at risk factors for poor school performance among school-aged children. As expected, the study found poor school performance linked to low socioeconomic status, low levels of parental education, and poor overall health. However, it also found a strong link between poor oral health and poor school performance, with children classified as having poor oral health 40 percent more likely struggle in school.

These findings are generalizable to the rest of the country. For example, attendance is an important factor in academic achievement, but dental conditions are responsible for a loss 51 million school hours among schoolchildren each year. Dental pain and infection are linked to poorer performance.

School-Based Programs to Promote Oral Health

In light of the apparent benefits of good oral health for school performance, some schools are taking steps to promote better oral care and health. In Maine, for instance, schools in need can apply for grants through School Oral Health Program (SOHP). The SOHP consists of four components:

  1. Oral health education for all children to support healthy behaviors
  2. A weekly fluoride mouth rinse to strengthen teeth
  3. Dental screenings to identify children who may need dental care
  4. Dental sealants, or plastic coatings, on back teeth to guard against decay

The State of Maine also supports an “Annual Sugar Out Day” to raise awareness of the effects of sugar on dental health and to help students choose low-sugar alternatives.

Oral Health Habits to Adopt

You can help your child improve oral health and do better in school by encouraging good oral hygiene. This includes brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, and reminding your child to drink water after eating. Also, regular trips to our Tukwila, WA office can help prevent serious tooth problems.

The Secret to Fresh Breath

January 11th, 2017

Bad breath: We’ve all dealt with it. You’ve been around people who have it and, like it or not, you have had it yourself. It can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, but how do you know if you have it? There is actually a simple test you can do to see if you have bad breath.

Wash your hands well, then put your finger in your mouth, way in the back. Scrape a little saliva from the back of your tongue, and then dab it on the back of your hand. Wait for one minute, then hold your hand to your nose and sniff. Is it fresh as a daisy? Or do you need to keep reading and learn how to freshen your breath?

How Bad Breath Starts

There are several ways that bad breath starts. Knowing the causes of bad breath is a solid start toward the cure.

  • The bacteria in your mouth: Bacteria is always in your mouth. It covers your gums, hides between your teeth, and hangs out on your tongue. As it multiplies, it produces toxins that cause the foul odor in your mouth.
  • Your bad habits: If you smoke cigarettes, a pipe, or cigars, or chew tobacco, you are not only harming your mouth and body, you are creating some really smelly breath.
  • Your tonsils: If you still have your tonsils, they can be the cause of bad breath. They are pitted, so smelly substances can collect in the pits and lead to bad breath.
  • Stomach issues: A stomach virus, ulcer, GERD, and other stomach issues could be the cause of your bad breath. A low-carb diet can put your body into a state of ketosis, which causes very bad breath.
  • The foods you eat: Garlic, onion, and other pungent foods will linger with you … on your breath.

Tips for Busting Bad Breath

Achieving fresh breath isn’t difficult, but it does require a little work. Try these tips for fresher breath and a healthier mouth.

  • Brush your teeth after every meal. You can also pick up a tongue scraper to use a couple of times a day to remove any lingering bacteria on your tongue.
  • Floss once a day to remove food particles between your teeth as well as plaque. Your mouth will thank you.
  • Gargle with special mouthwash to banish bad breath. The oxygen in it will kill the bacteria in your mouth that is causing your bad breath, and leave you fresh as a daisy!
  • Drink water to avoid dry mouth, which is a common cause of bad breath.
  • Ease your tummy troubles with antacids and other remedies. Ginger tea is a great tummy tamer.
  • Chew gum that contains xylitol. Saliva keeps your mouth moist, and chewing gum makes you salivate. Bye bye, bad breath!
  • Eat yogurt. It contains “good” bacteria that helps balance your gut and gives you a healthier mouth.
  • Soothe your sinuses. Sinus infections can cause you to have bad breath. Actually, it is the post-nasal drip that causes the foul odor. Cure the infection and your breath will improve.
  • Avoid all tobacco products (cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and snuff).
  • Eat a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains.

And don't forget! Get regular dental checkups at Southcenter Dental.

Curing the Nail-Biting Habit

January 4th, 2017

Do you ever find yourself gnawing at your nails? Nail-biting is a very common and difficult to break habit which usually has its beginnings in childhood. It can leave your fingers and nail beds red and swollen. But if you think that your nails are the only ones getting roughed up by nail-biting you'd be mistaken—so are your teeth!

According to a study by the Academy of General Dentistry, those who bite their nails, clench their teeth, or chew on pencils are at much higher risk to develop bruxism (unintentional grinding of the teeth). Bruxism can lead to tooth sensitivity, tooth loss, receding gums, headaches, and general facial pain.

Those are some nasty sounding side effects from chewing on your nails. Most nail-biting is a sign of stress or anxiety and its something you should deal with. So what steps can you take if you have a nail-biting habit?

There are several things you can do to ease up on nail-biting:

  • Trim your nails shorter and/or get regular manicures – Trimming your nails shorter is an effective remedy. In so doing, they'll be less tempting and more difficult to bite on. If you also get regular manicures, you’ll be less likely to ruin the investment you’ve made in your hands and fingernails!
  • Find a different kind of stress reduction – Try meditation, deep breathing, practicing qigong or yoga, or doing something that will keep your hands occupied like squeezing a stress ball or playing with a yo-yo.
  • Wear a bitter-tasting nail polish – When your nails taste awful, you won't bite them! Clear or colored, it doesn't matter. This is also a helpful technique for helping children get over the habit.
  • Figure out what triggers your nail-biting – Sometimes it's triggered by stress or anxiety and other times it can be a physical stressor, like having hang nails. Knowing what situations cause you to bite your nails will help you to avoid them and break the habit.
  • Wear gloves or bandages on your fingers – If you've tried the steps above and they aren't working, this technique can prove effective since your fingernails won't be accessible to bite.

If you're still having trouble with nail-biting after trying these self-help steps, it's best to consult your doctor, dermatologist, or Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi. For some, it may also be the sign of a deeper psychological or emotional problem.

Whatever the cause, nail-biting is a habit you need to break for your physical and emotional well-being. If you have any questions about the effects it can have on your oral health, please don't hesitate to ask Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi during your next visit to our Tukwila, WA office.

Diet Soda vs. Regular Soda: Which is better for teeth?

December 28th, 2016

When most patients ask Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi this question, they're thinking strictly about sugar content — cut out the bacteria-feeding sugar that's present in regular soda by opting for a diet soda and it will be better for your teeth. That seems logical, right? Well, there's a bit more to it than that. Let's take a closer look at how any kind of soda can affect your dental health.

Diet Soda – Why it can also lead to tooth decay

The main culprit in these drinks that leads to decay is the acid content. Diet sodas and other sugar-free drinks are usually highly acidic, which weakens the enamel on your teeth and makes them more susceptible to cavities and dental erosion. The level of phosphoric acid, citric acid, and/or tartaric acid is usually high in sugar-free drinks so it's best to avoid them.

Some patients also enjoy drinking orange juice or other citrus juices. These drinks are high in citric acid and have the same effect on the enamel of your teeth.

So what about regular soda?

We know the acidity of diet sodas and sugar-free drinks contributes to tooth decay, so what about regular soda? Like we alluded to earlier, regular soda is high in sugar — a 12 ounce can contains roughly ten teaspoons of sugar — and sugar feeds the decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. This also includes sports drinks and energy drinks, which are highly acidic and loaded with sugar too. So these drinks are a double-whammy of sugar and acidity your teeth and body simply don't need.

The problems caused by both diet and regular soda is exacerbated when you sip on them throughout the day. If you drink it all in one sitting, you won't be washing sugar and/or acids over your teeth all day long and your saliva will have a chance to neutralize the pH in your mouth.

The best beverages to drink and how to drink them

Drinking beverages that are lower in acid is a good step to take to keep your enamel strong. According to a study conducted by Matthew M. Rodgers and J. Anthony von Fraunhofer at the University of Michigan, your best bets are plain water, black tea or coffee, and if you opt for a soda, root beer. These drinks dissolved the least amount of enamel when measured 14 days after consumption of the beverage.

If you still choose to drink soda, diet soda, sugar-free drinks, or juices here are some other tips to lessen tooth decay:

  • Drink your soda or acidic beverages through a straw to minimize contact with teeth
  • Rinse with water immediately after consumption of the beverage
  • Avoid brushing your teeth between 30 minutes to an hour after drinking the beverage as this has been shown to spread the acids before your saliva can bring your mouth back to a neutral pH
  • Avoid drinks that have acids listed on the ingredients label

Still have questions about soda, sugar, and acid? Give our Tukwila, WA office a call and we’d be happy to help!

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