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How to care for your child’s teeth

Healthy smiles for babies and toddlers

baby toddler dental health pic

(NC)—We don’t usually associate cavities or gum disease with infants but in fact, oral diseases begin very early. For example, early childhood caries (cavities) is a form of severe tooth decay in the primary (baby) teeth of children from birth to age 3, and it affects more than 10 per cent of preschool-aged children in Canada. Baby’s first teeth are crucial to healthy adult teeth, and early childhood cavities can lead to much bigger oral health issues later in life.

Reduce the risk and follow these simple care tips with your little one:

• Be a good role model. Keep your own teeth and gums healthy.

• Wipe baby’s mouth and gums with a clean, wet cloth or piece of gauze after feeding.

• Gently clean newly erupted teeth with a small, soft toothbrush.

• Avoid fruit punches and other sweetened drinks in baby bottles, especially before bed.

• Reduce the frequency of nighttime feedings.

• Use only pacifiers with an orthodontic design, and don’t dip it in sugary substances.

•  Avoid transfer of your saliva onto items used by baby, including bottles, cups, pacifiers. Bacteria spreads.

• Rinse baby’s mouth with clear water immediately after any liquid medication is given.

• Check for early warning signs by lifting up baby’s top lip. White, chalky teeth or brown or black stained teeth indicate a problem. Contact your dental professional immediately.

• Gradually introduce fresh fruits and vegetables to the diet. These foods, which require chewing, stimulate saliva flow and help to neutralize acids.

• Begin regular dental visits by age one.

More tips and information about oral health care is available online at

Celebrating National Dental Hygiene Week 2012!

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
St. Francis of Assisi


This year I was able to get out and celebrate National Dental Hygiene Week within the community of Kensington. I had the pleasure of visiting with 4 different West Hillhurst Preschool Classes and boy was it fun! Teeth were counted in English and en francais; we learnt how to brush teeth and gums using Doogan Dog as a trusty but sneezy model,: kids listened with wide eyes and open ears during story time and explanations about what sugar bugs did in their mouth! What an attentive, and happy go lucky audience.

Dental Hygiene Week is a time when Canada recognizes the initiatives of this profession and how it impacts Canadians. It is both a good time and bad time to be a hygienist in 2012; good because of the changes made to the Health Professions Act that gave Canadians more direct access to dental hygiene care and bad because of economic changes that affected  the landscape of once plentiful jobs for us hygienists.

If there is one thing that has not changed, it is the constant need for access to preventive oral health care in this country. I would like to personally thank every hygienist I know who has been instrumental in spearheading these legislative changes that would affect how healthy Canadians mouths could be.  You pioneers and trailblazers are amazing individuals! This is a great time to be a hygienist and it is only going to get better. Lots of faith, hope, and love.



Can Tea Help Prevent Cavities?

Image from the Fairmont Hotel Banff Springs on Highnoon Tea

This weekend I had my first experience of High Noon Tea! And I must say, where have I been all this time?

The dainty tea sandwiches; the scones with clotted cream, preserves and butter; the petit fours, all placed strategically on a tiered tower that you almost don’t want to eat because it looks so exquisite. And of course, the highlight, The Tea! If you have never had High Noon Tea I insist you try the one at the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff. The view in Rundle Lounge  where High Noon Tea is served is glorious on a sunny day with a bosom friend. Thanks very much A for introducing me!

Ah, but such a rich diet of fermentable carbohydrates will be a feast for those pesky streptococcus mutans who desperately want to lace your teeth with a bath of acid. In a nutshell bacteria metabolize sugars found in your diet and poop out acids that cause tooth decay!

But do not fret, there is tea to save the day! Yes it’s known to have anticariogenic properties; it helps to reduce the risk of cavities! Righto!

Apparently the polyphenols and catechins present in tea help to decrease biofilm from forming. Hence tea, has the potential to be an antibacterial. But what tea to choose; fermented or non fermented; black tea or green tea; Kyoto cherry blossom tea or Iranian green tea? There is an in vitro study from Spring 2011 that can be found on Pubmed that explains all of this in great detail for those with inquiring minds. In general, there is evidence showing tea as cavity fighter, but it seems there needs to be more studies completed to identify which types of tea leaves give the most therapeutic effects.

For the record, I chose the Kyoto cherry blossom green tea. Divine.


Barkley the Sheltie uses His Electric Toothbrush

Dogs need their gums and teeth brushed too! My poor dog, Barkley has choppers that are set way back in his head; his poor jaw extends a full 5 inches and ends with a cute button nose. Shelties are known for “bad teeth”, and my vet has informed me that Barkley is no exception! Barkley has had a dental hygiene cleaning done by his vet under sedation in the past, but have been told by the vet that I am probably the best person to do his cleaning. So Barkley gets his own electric toothbrush and most days he puts up with it.

The ritual ( when it is done….i know bad me) goes something like this: me whistling for Barkley, Barkley joyfully running up to me, me getting him to come closer, he reluctantly looking at the brush and knows what is coming, me putting the brush way way in the back of the depths of his jaw, and Barkley trying to back away. The odd thing is that when I am done he comes back for more!!! I think he just likes to be preened, and likes the massage on his gums…he is spa dog at heart:)

I remember snickering with some cohorts of mine back at work about brushing a dog’s teeth. We believed at the time, that if a dog survived this far in evolution without the help of their two legged best friend brushing their mouths, that they could survive a lengthy time in their own lives. But alas, all the information and knowledge that I have collected through the last few years about bacteria in the mouth and in particular heart disease, made me mad with canine brushing. Apparently veterinarians have known about all the systemic problems linked with gum disease in dogs and cats for a very long time ! Which makes me wonder, why is it still news to us humans? 🙂


How untreated periodontal disease is linked with diabetes and cardiovascular disease

November is National Diabetes Awareness month in Canada.  Nine million people in Canada are affected by diabetes! That means that every hour of every day there are 20 people diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. This spring when I attended the Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver, I attended a seminar by Shirley Gutkowski, RDH, BSDH, FACE, that opened  up a can of worms for myself and the importance of integrating a diabetes monitoring and screening system as hygienists within the clinic.

The basic way to check and monitor diabetes as a patient and as collaborating health practitioners ( e.g. your hygienist), starts with the “ABC’s”.

A is for A1C- Glycosylated hemoglobin, glycohemoglobin (blood test) can report a blood sugar level average over a period of 2 -3 months. The Canadian Diabetes Association’s recommended level for A1c is below 7%.

B is for blood pressure – high blood pressure can lead to eye disease, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. You may need to change your eating and exercise habits and/or take pills to keep your blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg.

C is for cholesterol – High cholesterol and other fats in the blood can lead to heart disease and stroke so a Lipid Panel or Lipoprotein (blood test)  will help to assess this component.. The Canadian Diabetes Association’s recommended level for total cholesterol is below 200 mg/dl, LDL below 100 mg/dl, HDL above 40 mg/dl in men and above 50 mg/dl in women, and triglycerides below 150 mg/dl.

Untreated periodontal disease is associated with poor glycemic control in diabetes, and is considered the sixth complication of diabetes. For those who have the geek in them to read further about diabetes and is complications from a periodontal disease perspective, I have included a link to an excellent clinical paper on these matters. I am hoping that my next follow up blog this month will discuss C-reactive protein ( an inflammatory marker measured to diagnose cardiovascular disease, a big complication of diabetes). Thanks for reading!

Your friendly neighbourhood hygienist,




Healthy Mouth, Healthy you [video]

View more about how bacteria in your mouth can affect your whole body in this video.

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If the eyes are the window to the soul then the mouth is the window to the body!

There are more reasons to brush and floss than just for fresh breath, and less cavities! This article from MayoClinic’s website discusses certain medical conditions, such as osteoporosis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and their link to the bacteria in your mouth. Good information to chew on:)