People are often extremely concerned during the summertime about the shape of their body, but often neglect the shape of their teeth. With so much to do outside and so many tempting treats, such as ice cream and sodas, we often forget to properly take care of our teeth. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, dental-related emergencies increase during the summer months, due to the fact that we change our daily routine, which includes our oral hygiene, and we use our teeth as tools. In order to not fall victim to the "summertime ewws," Water's Edge Dentistry has created a list of do's and don'ts to help save you an unexpected visit to the dentist this summer:
❑ Use Mouth Guards While Playing Sports
Regardless of whether or not you are playing a contact sport people often grind their teeth, because of the competitive nature of these games. Grinding your teeth can lead to oral health problems, such as chipping, wearing, or even breaking of teeth. Contact sports, especially soccer, are known to increase the risk of sustaining a dental-related injury. Your dentist can make you custom-fit mouth guards that are less bulky, fit and protect better.
❑ Non-Contact Sports Can Be Hazardous, too
Scuba diving and swimming can even cause dental-related injuries to individuals. Due to the chemicals in pools, frequent swimmers may be at risk of forming yellowish-brown or dark brown stains on their teeth. These chemicals increase the pH of a person's saliva, resulting in a breakdown of salivary proteins and forming deposits on teeth, called "swimmers' calculus," and most often form on the front teeth. These stains can often be removed by a professional dental cleaning and specialized fluoride treatments.
Scuba diving, on the other hand, can lead to jaw joint pain, gum tissue problems, or "tooth squeeze" pain in the center of the tooth. These symptoms together can result in "diver's mouth syndrome" (or barodontalgia). This condition is caused by the air pressure changing and divers biting too hard on their scuba air regulators. The best way to avoid these problems is to visit a dentist before scuba diving and make sure your dental health is tip-top. Ask your dentist about fitting the mouthpiece of an air regulator. Sometimes, dentures can be accidently swallowed during a dive, so denture wearers should also consult a dentist before diving to discuss and potential problems.
❑ Do Not Use Your Teeth as Cutting Devices
Your teeth are meant to chew and grind your food down for digestion, however, when cutting utensils are not readily available while boating or at the beach , people like to use their teeth to open bottles and wrappers, cut fishing lines, and chew ice to cool down. Engaging in these types of activities can be harmful to your teeth and costly to repair. Teeth are often fractured performing these activities, forming hair-line fracture that cannot be seen by the naked-eye.
❑ Eat Sweets and High Carbohydrate Foods in Moderation
Ice cream or a cold soda are tempting treats with the sweltering heat of summer, however, these products are high in sugars and can cause cavities, plaque, and loss of enamel if over consumed. Potato chips are also a tempting snack, but are high in carbohydrates that are quickly turned into sugars by our saliva. Bacteria love sugars and convert them into acids that strip away the enamel, leaving the tooth exposed and susceptible to cavities. Even sugar-free or diet sodas can cause damage to teeth, as they alter the mouth's pH level due to the carbonation, making your saliva more acidic and reduce the strength of enamel. As a result, your teeth are easy targets for cavities.
It is better to consume your sweets, sugars, and carbohydrates in one-sitting rather than spacing them out throughout the day. All day snacking allows oral bacteria to thrive in your mouth throughout the day. Restricting your sweet consumption to meals and brushing afterwards can help prevent conditions that sugars cause to your teeth. Sugar-free gum and swishing with water are acceptable substitutes to brushing, when brushing is not an option.
❑ Wear Lip Balm With an SPF of At Least 15
While we often remember to protect our faces and bodies with sunscreen, most sun-goers forget about their lips. Our lips are more vulnerable to burning than most parts of your body, yet we forget about protecting them from the sun. Damage to our lips over time can lead to fever blisters, or worse skin cancer. A quick application of lip balm will go a long way in protecting your lips from the sun's harmful rays.
❑ Keep Up With Your Routine Dental Visits
Dental care with your dentist should not end with the school year. Daily flossing, brushing twice a day, and investing in fluoride toothpaste can improve teeth and gum health. Regular visits every 3-6 months, depending on your gum health, along with great home dental care can go a long way in preventing more costly procedures down the line.
Dr. Dahlkemper at Water's Edge Dentistry, states, "just remember, while most of us take a vacation from work or school, you cannot take a vacation from your oral hygiene!"
Dr. Nicole Dahlkemper graduated with her DMD from Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio and received her fellowship from the prestigious Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies (LVI), the world's premier postgraduate teaching facility, specializing in cosmetic and neuromuscular dentistry. She is a member of the American Dental Association, the South Carolina Dental Association and American Academy of General Dentistry and volunteers her time at the East Cooper Community Outreach Dental Clinic.