You have so many good reasons to keep your family’s teeth and gums healthy. Their sparkling smiles. Being able to chew for good nutrition. Avoiding toothaches and discomfort. And new research suggests that gum disease can lead to other problems in the body, including increased risk of heart disease.
Fortunately, there are simple ways to keep teeth strong and healthy from childhood to old age. Here’s how:
1. Start children early. Despite great strides in decay prevention, one in four young children develops signs of tooth decay before they start school. Half of all children between the ages of 12 and 15 have cavities. “Dental care should begin as soon as a child’s first tooth appears, usually around six months,” Caryn Solie, RDH, president of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, tells WebMD. “Teeth can be wiped with a clean, damp cloth or a very soft brush. At about age 2, you can let kids try brushing for themselves — although it’s important to supervise.”
2. Seal off trouble. Permanent molars come in around age 6. Thin protective coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth can prevent decay in the pits and fissures. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sealants can significantly reduce caries. Yet only one in three U.S. kids receives dental sealants. Talk to your dental professional.
3. Use enough — but not too much — fluoride. The single biggest advance in oral health has been fluoride, which strengthens enamel, making it less likely to decay. Three out of four Americans drink water that is fluoridated. If your water isn’t fluoridated, talk to your dental professional, who may suggest putting a fluoride application on your teeth. Many toothpastes and mouth rinses also contain fluoride. Fluoride should be used sparingly in young children — no more than a pea-sized dab on the toothbrush. Too much can cause white spots on teeth.
4. Brush twice a day and floss daily. Gum disease and tooth decay remain big problems — and not just for older people. Three-fourths of teenagers have gums that bleed, according to the ADHA. Along with the basic advice, remember:
Toothbrushes should be changed 3 to 4 times a year.
Teenagers with braces may need to use special toothbrushes and other oral hygiene tools to brush their teeth. Talk to your dentist or orthodontist.
Older people with arthritis or other problems may have trouble holding a toothbrush or using floss. Some people find it easier to use an electric toothbrush. Others simply put a bicycle grip or foam tube over the handle of a regular toothbrush to make it easier to hold.
In my 25 years as an emergency medicine physician, I’ve seen the catastrophic effect heat can have on health, including hospitalization and even death. While infants, the elderly, people with chronic medical conditions and workers in outdoor professions are at greater risk, extreme heat can impact anyone.
In Washington, D.C. where I work, the hottest period may be just days away – from July 11-15, according to 30-year averages calculated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center. The hottest time of the year actually varies across the country, from June in parts of the Southwest to September along the Pacific Coast.
Regardless of when summer’s heat peaks in your area, you can help keep people out of the emergency department by watching for signs of heat stress in yourself, your family, and others around you, and if you see someone exhibiting the signs, help them get the medical attention they need. Being ready to help in all sorts of extreme weather events also improves your community’s resiliency and the nation’s health security overall. You could even save a life.
People suffering from heat stress may experience heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale, and clammy skin; fast, weak pulse; and nausea or vomiting. Early signs include muscle cramps, heat rash, fainting or near-fainting spells, and a pulse or heart rate greater than 100. If you believe someone is suffering from heat stress, they need to move to a cooler location and lie down; apply cool, wet cloths to the body; and sip water. They should remain in the cool location until recovered and their pulse heart rate is well under 100.
Signs that someone might be suffering from the most severe heat-related illness, heat stroke, include a body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit; hot, red, dry or moist skin; rapid and strong pulse; and “altered mental status” that can range from confusion and agitation to possible unconsciousness. If you see someone exhibiting these signs, call 911 immediately; help the person move to a cooler environment; reduce the person’s body temperature with cool cloths soaked in ice water especially to head, neck, arm pits and upper legs near the groin area where combined 70 percent of body heat can be lost, or even a cool bath if you can stay with them to ensure they do not drown; and do not give them fluids.
Children are especially vulnerable to heat illnesses, and can’t always tell us what is wrong. When it’s hot outside, consider any change in a child’s behavior as heat stress.
To help prevent heat-related illness:
Spend time in locations with air-conditioning.
Drink plenty of fluids. Good choices are water and diluted sport electrolyte drinks (1 part sport drink to 2 parts water) unless told otherwise by your doctor.
Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
Limit outdoor activity to morning and evening hours
As people crank up air conditioning in the peak time of summer, electrical grids can become overwhelmed, causing power outages. In power outages, people who rely on electricity-dependent medical devices, like oxygen concentrators and electric wheelchairs, may need assistance so check on your neighbors!
Community organizations and businesses can help local emergency managers and health departments plan for the community’s health needs amid the summer heat – and other emergency situations that can cause power outages – using the new the HHS emPOWER Map, launched by HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. The HHS emPOWER Map provides the monthly total number of Medicare beneficiaries’ claims for electricity-dependent equipment at the national, state, territory, county, and zip code levels.