Did you know World Smile Day is celebrated around the world on Oct. 7? The smiley face we’ve come to know well was originally created by graphic artist Harvey Ball in 1963 with the intention to create goodwill and cheer. In 1999, it was turned into an official holiday to inspire acts of kindness.
Part of a beautiful smile is healthy teeth and gums. Dental assistants play a key role on a dental team, and they have important opportunities to promote good teeth health with their patients young and old. Here’s how you can promote healthy teeth and gums in honor of World Smile Day.
Remind your patients of the importance of drinking water. Not only is good hydration important for overall health, water helps your teeth too. It increases saliva in the mouth, which helps remove bacteria and flushes out food particles.
Talk about foods that increase bacteria. We think of candy as an obvious no-no for causing cavities and gum disease, but other foods are actually worse. Crackers and potato chips create a bacteria bath in the mouth because they stick to gums and teeth long after they’re eaten, even longer than more dissolvable candy. Parents often give their kids crackers for a morning or afternoon snack, but starchy foods are some of the worst foods for teeth health.
Educate families on better snacks. Your teeth are happier with nutrient-dense foods that aren’t full of starch and sugars. Apple slices, carrots, celery, and nuts are crunchy and they improve the quality of your teeth. The Vitamin C in fresh fruits like strawberries, kiwis, and apples helps neutralize bacteria. Snack on whole foods rather than something out of a box, and your teeth will thank you.
Take a break between snacks. It’s not just what you eat, but also how often. Whenever you eat something, your mouth turns into an acid bath with a reduced PH level. That’s because the bacteria in your mouth produce acid to break down sugars and starches for digestion. It takes a minimum of 20 minutes of not eating for your mouth to return to a more teeth-friendly pH level. If you’re constantly snacking, your mouth is in a constant state of acidity, which can lead to tooth decay and cavities.
Try to limit snacks, and when you do have one, make it a good one. Or, after crackers or cookies, follow up with a cleansing drink of water. It’s also helpful to wait at least 30 minutes after a snack or meal to brush your teeth because the acid in the mouth created by eating can damage teeth.
Brush and floss. Most people already understand the importance of good oral care, but if you educate your patients about the role of certain foods and snacking habits, they might be extra motivated to follow up with a good routine of brushing and flossing.
If you’re interested in a career as a dental assistant, visit St. Paul’s School of Nursing program page. Or call (855) 822-3018 to speak to one of our admissions representatives or to schedule a tour at our Staten Island campus, where we offer our dental assistant program.