Canadian City Sees Effects of Removing Fluoride

Known for its contribution to the Canadian auto industry, the mid-sized city of Windsor, Ontario, sits directly across the Detroit River from another major automotive hub: Detroit. But Windsor made headlines of its own back in 2013, when the city voted to stop adding fluoride to its public water supply.

Fluoridated water has long been shown to be a safe and effective way to reduce cavities and strengthen teeth and bones, but many still do not trust the additive and lobbied against it. In the case of those in Windsor, that lobbying was successful – or so they thought.

Fast forward to 2018, when the data from the city’s Oral Health Report revealed some startling numbers. According to the report, the city experienced a shocking 51 percent increase in Windsor children who required urgent dental care in the years following the fluoride removal. What’s worse, with only one in four Windsor families having dental insurance, the cost to treat these children – if they were fortunate enough to receive treatment at all – was passed along to their families and to taxpayers in the city.

And it just got worse from there. Because Windsor removed the equipment necessary to disperse fluoride, the city will now have to spend around $850,000 to replace the equipment, another expense passed along to taxpayers.

So, what does this mean for us here in America? While this story doesn’t directly affect us, it does go to show why fluoride and fluoridated water are so important for our oral health – and what can happen when that fluoride is taken away.


Neglected Baby Teeth Cause Grown-Up Problems

With 78 percent of all adults experiencing at least one cavity in their teeth by the age of 17, teaching children excellent oral health habits at a young age is vitally important to their future dental health. But it goes much further than that, because poor oral hygiene in children can cause a host of dental problems – both in the future and in the present. Dr. Allison Lesko of Fort Collins, Colorado, explains why oral health is crucial in children.

“I think some people assume that since they’re just going to fall out anyway, baby teeth aren’t important,” says Lesko. “But not caring for baby teeth can set your child up for a lifetime of dental problems.”

What kind of problems? For starters, Lesko says baby teeth are more important than many people realize.

“Baby teeth are like starter teeth. Teaching your child to care for baby teeth is a great way to set them up for a lifetime of proper oral hygiene,” she says.

But that’s not all. Baby teeth can impact future teeth, too.

“Baby teeth act as placeholders for adult teeth,” Lesko says. “If they are severely decayed and need to be removed, those gaps and spaces can cause crowding issues when the adult teeth come in.”

According to Lesko, it goes even deeper. Cavities in children have been shown to cause adverse effects in their education. According to the Children’s Dental Health Project (CDHP), children with cavities missed up to three times more school than those without cavities because of oral pain. Another study out of Los Angeles found that dental pain was so prevalent, an estimated one-third of absences in lower-income elementary-school-aged children were dental related, and in yet another study, high-school-aged children experiencing prolonged dental pain were about four times more likely to have a lower GPA.

“Children can’t focus on school when they’re suffering from dental pain,” Lesko says. “And waiting too long to fix cavities can equate to missed school due to dental appointments and the child simply not feeling well enough to attend.”

So, what, as a parent, can you do to protect children’s oral health? The key, says Lesko, is prevention.

“Teach your children to properly care for their teeth,” Lesko says. “That means brushing twice a day for at least two minutes at a time and flossing at least once a day.”

But don’t just take their word for it, she says.

“Follow up – especially with younger kids,” Lesko says. “Make sure they are brushing and flossing, and make sure you are doing your due diligence as a parent and taking them to their regularly scheduled dental exams.”


Athletes at Higher Risk for Poor Oral Health

If you or your child are an athlete, you’re probably already in excellent physical health. But what about your oral health? You might think that because you take care of your body and your teeth, your oral health is in great shape. But a new study by the University College of London and published in the British Dental Journal says you could be dangerously mistaken.

The study followed 352 athletes of both genders, examining their teeth for decay, acid erosion and the health of their gums – all things that are checked at a regular oral health checkup, according to Fort Collins, Colorado, dentist Dr. Allison Lesko.

Lesko says what they found was quite startling.

“The athletes did take better-than-average care of their teeth, meaning they were more likely to brush twice a day for two minutes per brushing, and floss at least once a day,” Lesko says. “But somehow, these athletes had a higher rate of cavities.”

In fact, almost 50 percent of the athletes in the study had untreated tooth decay and early-stage gum disease. Nearly a third even claimed that these oral health problems hurt their athletic training and performance.

Researchers were baffled. How could people who take such excellent care of their teeth and overall health have such a higher instance of dental problems than the rest of us? The answer lies in something athletes use that the rest of us don’t.

“Sports-performance products,” says Lesko. “Things like sports drinks, energy gels and energy bars are the likely culprits here.”

That’s because sports and energy products are packed with something that may be good for athletic performance, but isn’t so great for the teeth: sugar.

“The sugar in some of these energy products sits on the teeth, feeding that bacteria that cause the plaque acid, which creates cavities,” says Lesko. “And if you’re training, you may not have time to run to the bathroom and brush after each time you use these products.”

Lesko says while the sugar and acids from sports drinks can stick to the teeth, busy athletes should rinse with water after drinking.

“And try not to drink the same drink all day,” she says. “Try to finish the drink quickly and drink some water.”

As for the gels and bars, these products are arguably more dangerous because they can stick to and between the teeth, so dentists like Lesko recommend brushing after eating.

“We know it’s not always easy to stop playing or practicing to brush your teeth, but try to get to a toothbrush as soon as you can,” she says. “It can go a long way toward keeping the teeth – and your game – healthy.”


Older Chinese Patients at Higher Risk for Poor Oral Health

For older people, the problems caused by poor oral health can be multifold. Recent studies have linked poor oral health in seniors to fatal diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, not to mention diabetes, cancer and heart disease. But two new studies have revealed more troubling evidence that poor oral health in seniors – especially those in vulnerable populations such as lower-socioeconomic and immigrant populations – can have dangerous consequences.

The two new studies found that older Chinese patients living in the United States with poor oral health have higher rates of conditions like hypertension (high blood pressure), cognitive decline (a precursor to dementia) and depression.

The two studies were conducted at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, by Darina Petrovsky, Bei Wu and Weiyu Mao. They examined data from more than 2,700 Chinese American participants over the age of 60. What they found was that almost half of the participants had some kind of problem with their teeth, and those with oral health problems reported having problems with memory decline and cognition.

The study also found that nearly 19 percent of participants had gum issues, over 15 percent had both teeth and gum issues, and a quarter of participants had dry mouth. Those patients with dry mouth also had poor overall oral health and experienced higher rates of stress.

Dr. Allison Lesko of Fort Collins, Colorado, says the study is very telling when it comes to highlighting the importance of oral health in seniors.

“Though this study was done on a very specific population – Chinese senior citizens living in America – it can be universally applied to other senior immigrant populations,” Lesko says.

Though researchers said part of the problem faced by seniors in this demographic is both a lack of dental insurance coverage and a language barrier between patients and American dentists, the problem is universal in that many seniors are unable to visit the dentist regularly.

The other element to the study, the discovery that stress may play a dangerous role in dry mouth, may have other solutions, as well as causes.

“Researchers recommend older people reach out to family and friends in times of stress to help reduce the stress and hopefully some of the dry mouth symptoms, but stress isn’t the only cause of dry mouth,” Lesko says. “Things like medication can cause dry mouth, and many seniors take medication each day, which is why it’s imperative we are working to get seniors to the dentist. A dentist can identify the medications that could be causing dry mouth and offer solutions to remedy it.”


Ancient Teeth Reveal Truths About Diet Versus Oral Health

Many of us have probably already heard that foods containing sugar can wreak havoc on our oral health, but have you ever wondered how much of a role your diet really plays in your oral health? Well, a team of researchers at the University of Arkansas wondered the same thing and set out to determine how dietary changes have affected humanoid teeth over time.

The research used teeth dating back millions of years to a species of an early human ancestor called Hominin Paranthropus, led by Dr. Peter Ungar, an anthropology professor at University of Arkansas. At Ungar’s lab, he and his team studied both the Hominin Paranthropus and a tribe of people from Tanzania called the Hazda who still live as hunter-gatherers to this day.

The research team noticed that as the Hazda and Paranthropus societies advanced from hunter-gathers to more agriculturally based societies, their teeth began to develop more cavities.

“What the researchers found was that the more meat-based the diet was, the fewer cavities the species had,” says Dr. Allison Lesko, a dentist from Fort Collins, Colorado, who was not involved in the study.

So, what was behind the increase in cavities? After all, agricultural products like fruits and vegetables shouldn’t be responsible for that many cavities.

“They found that, for starters, the male citizens of the Hazda and Paranthropus societies had worse teeth than the women,” Lesko says. “In fact, some of the female teeth are perfect, while the male teeth were riddled with dental caries.”

The answer is honeycomb, something that, according to Ungar and his team, is a common snack for hunter-gatherer males to consume while on hunts. The honeycomb provided a much-needed source of energy, but the comb itself is made of a waxy material that adheres to and between the teeth.

“Without a toothbrush, that wax could stay stuck to the teeth for a long time, causing cavities,” Lesko says.

But Ungar’s study doesn’t just aim to examine the anthropological history of teeth and cavities. He and his team hope to someday develop a device that could measure and treat dental erosion. As for what researchers like Ungar want people to take away from the study?

“The study highlights how important our diet is to our oral health,” Lesko says. “It’s not just about how well we care for our oral hygiene. What we eat makes a huge impact on our oral health, too.”


Dentistry Toys Make Oral Health Fun!

Do you have a budding dentist at home? A child with a fear of going to the dentist or brushing their teeth? Or maybe you just want to teach your children how to care for their teeth. Whatever your motivation, there are many tooth-themed toys and games out there you may not know about that can make oral health fun!

If you’re looking for a way to make dentistry fun for your kids, check out these cool dental-themed play products.

Thinkmax Play Dentist Set

For the future dentist, the Thinkmax Play Dentist set is available on Amazon.com and contains 15 pieces, including play picks, mirror, toothbrush and even a smiling set of teeth. The pieces come in a cute retro medical bag for storage, so your little one can make house calls without losing all the pieces in the process. This set would be great for kids who both want to be a dentist or are afraid to go to the dentist. Parents can demonstrate how the tools will be used on their child on a favorite toy, showing the child exactly what the dentist does, and how gentle their exam will be.

Crocodile Dentist

This clever and fun game isn’t as educational as some of the other dental toys, but it sure is fun! Kids can press the teeth of the crocodile at each turn, and one unlucky player will get their hand chomped by chance. The “teeth” don’t hurt when they bite, but they definitely can take you by surprise!

Play-Doh Drill’N Fill Set

Another fun game for the orthodontist- or dentist-in-training is the Play Doh Drill’N Fill playset. It comes with a mouth, dentist tools and plenty of Play-Doh to use for making everything from teeth to braces. We let a 4-year-old try it out and it got two thumbs up (they especially loved making green teeth)!

Playmobil Dentist with Patient

Playmobil makes a wide variety of toys for every walk of life, but the company’s dentist with patient playset is great for kids who want to play dentist without having to be the dentist themselves. In addition to the dentist and the patient, the set comes with a chair, dental tools, dental equipment and pretty much everything your child will encounter at their own dental exam.

The Toothless Monster

The Toothless Monster is an adorable plush toy that “grows” teeth each time your child loses a tooth. The toy comes with a book about why it’s important to care for your teeth. It’s not meant to replace the tooth fairy tradition, but it teaches children to help others while keeping the experience of losing teeth positive.

Whether your child loves caring for their teeth and visiting the dentist or is apprehensive about these experiences, these toys can help make oral health fun, and hopefully encourage your child to take control of their own oral hygiene.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lesko, please call 970-812-0355.


New Study Shows Children’s Dental Shortcomings

When it comes to kids’ oral health, many a study has been released on the impact of oral hygiene on their overall well-being – namely their ability to focus on and attend school regularly. That’s because time and time again those studies have shown that when a child is suffering from dental pain, they can’t focus during class time, and they miss more school due to untreated dental pain and dental visits to address that pain. Now, a new study has been released showing just how prevalent poor oral care in children really is, as seen from the eyes of their parents. These sobering statistics seem to echo what previous studies have shown – that we are failing at children’s oral health care in America.

The newest study was published by top oral health insurer Delta Dental’s Delta Dental Plans Association, a nonprofit organization that represents Delta’s 39 families of independent companies. The study surveyed 1,481 parents of children under the age of 12.

In the survey, parents were asked to rate their children’s oral health and hygiene. The group that scored the highest marks on this question? Children under the age of 3. That’s because parents of children this age by and large are still in control of their children’s hygiene habits and thus better able to give their children a higher score. Unfortunately, that high score wasn’t very high at all, with just 30 percent of parents rating their young child as having excellent oral health.

The results get worse as the children’s ages increase. Just 21 percent of the 3- to 5-year-old group was rated by parents as having excellent oral hygiene. The 6- to 9-year-old age group got a 17 percent excellence rating, and the 10- to 12-year-old group got just 14 percent. So, what’s going on that these numbers are so low – and, even worse, are decreasing so rapidly as children age?

The Delta Dental Plans Association attributes the decrease to parents relinquishing control of their child’s toothbrush with age. While children in the birth to age 3 group get their teeth brushed by mom or dad, as they age they are given more responsibility to care for their teeth on their own, and that’s where the problems begin.

So, what can be done to correct this problem? For starters, parents must take more time to ensure their children are brushing and flossing properly. Yes, one of the joys of raising children is watching them grow into independent people, but when it comes to oral health, if they’re not ready to take the reigns themselves, there’s no shame in helping them out a little bit longer.

As for parents who are caring for their child’s teeth themselves and still experiencing difficulties, speak to Dr. Lesko for some tips on how to help make oral hygiene easier for your child and yourself. She can be reached at 970-812-0355.


These Beauty Trends Can Destroy Smiles

If you’re searching for a whiter, brighter smile, there are many trendy products out there that claim to be able to help you reach your goals. But what you don’t know can hurt you. That’s because many of these so-called oral “health” products aren’t so healthy after all. In fact, they can be doing more harm than good to your teeth and gums. Before you reach for those white strips or that designer toothpaste, check out these surprisingly dangerous oral care products.

Trendy Flavored Toothpastes

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to change up the flavor of your favorite paste from time to time. Basic mint can get boring after awhile. But beware some of the newer, trendier toothpaste brands that have sprung up in stores and online. They may taste great, but many don’t contain the recommended daily amount of fluoride, and thus aren’t doing as much for your teeth as they could be. Always check the packaging for the American Dental Association seal of approval, and if you’re not sure if a product contains fluoride, read the ingredients on the packaging.

White Strips

White strips have been an affordable, reliable way to whiten teeth for years, but a new study has found that they could be very dangerous to your teeth. That’s because researchers found that when hydrogen peroxide (the active whitening ingredient in white strips) was left on the teeth, it was able to penetrate the enamel and destroy the dentin of the teeth by causing it to crumble apart. While it is not yet known if this dentin can be revived or if this is problem is isolated to the pulled, dead teeth used in the study, for now we’d advise you to avoid these products until more conclusive evidence is reported.

Pulling

No, not teeth pulling – oil pulling. Though this ancient ayurvedic practice seems pretty safe, there are safer ways to rinse the teeth. First of all, it’s important to note that oil pulling with essential oils only removes surface stains. If that’s all you’re trying to do, you can achieve the same results using mouthwash, saltwater and, yes, even plain old tap water – all of which are proven safe for your teeth. Meanwhile, pulling with some varieties of oil has been found to cause pneumonia if the oil makes its way into your lungs!

Bottom line, you don’t need trendy oral health care products to maintain a healthy, beautiful smile. Just brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day for two minutes at a time and floss once a day. This will keep your smile looking as white and bright as possible – without the risk.

Ready to make an appointment with Dr. Lesko? Call 970-812-0355 today.


Managing Oral Health with Diabetes

With more than 100 million Americans suffering from diabetes or pre-diabetes, it has never been more critical to raise awareness of this devastating condition. The disease, which occurs when the blood sugar is too high, can cause dangerous complications throughout the entire body – literally from head to toe. One place where diabetes can take its most dangerous toll is inside the mouth, which is why it’s crucial to take extra diligent care of oral hygiene if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Here are just a few steps you should add to your routine.

Keep Blood Sugar Under Control

The best way to maintain your oral health and your total body health is to keep your diabetes well controlled. This means maintaining a healthy body weight, eating the recommended foods, caring for teeth properly, and taking diabetes medications and other medicines as prescribed. This will allow your body to spend less time struggling to survive and allow it to fight infections and cavities as needed.

Eat Well

Eating well doesn’t just benefit your blood sugar and weight – it benefits your teeth, too. Eating a diet rich in protein and fiber and low in sugar will lower your risk of cavities and periodontal disease.

Quit Smoking

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, smokers are 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers. If that’s not reason enough to quit smoking, consider what smoking does to your oral health. From stained, discolored teeth to bad breath to an increased risk of heart disease and numerous types of cancer (including oral cancer), smoking is bad news for the entire body.

Care for Your Teeth

This one seems pretty obvious, but it bears repeating. Taking excellent care of your oral hygiene can not only help save your teeth and prevent cavities and periodontal disease, but it can also decrease your risk of developing diabetes in the first place. Not sure where to start? Brush your teeth at least twice a day for a minimum of two minutes each time and floss at least once a day.

Visit Your Dentist Regularly

If you are healthy and have healthy teeth and gums, you may be able to get by on one dental cleaning per year. But if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, it’s imperative that you visit the dentist at least twice a year. Your dentist can help remove tartar buildup at the gum line that can allow dangerous bacteria to get into your bloodstream through your gums. She can also keep an eye on any changes to your oral health biome that could spell danger for your diabetes, such as new abscesses, cavities, loose teeth and periodontal disease.

Navigating diabetes can be stressful, but with the right steps in place, managing oral health care with diabetes doesn’t have to be.

Need to discuss diabetes and oral health with Dr. Lesko? Make an appointment today at 970-812-0355.


Developmental Disabilities Complicate Oral Hygiene

Properly maintaining a child’s oral hygiene can be a challenge for any parent, but for a parent of a child with a developmental disability, this challenge can be even greater, especially when that child refuses to see a dentist. But now, a cry from parents of children with developmental disabilities is gaining steam, and it could effect change in the dental community.

“The first problem many parents face is even getting their developmentally disabled child to care for their teeth at home,” says Dr. Allison Lesko, a dentist from Fort Collins, Colorado. “Getting a child to feel comfortable with a routine or to sit still long enough to brush and floss teeth is a tall order. And some may even need these steps performed for them if they are unwilling or unable.”

As big a problem as this is for younger children, it can become an even bigger problem as the child in question ages.

“At some point, the resistant child will become a teen and an adult, and will hopefully be responsible for managing their own hygiene, but this may not always be possible,” Lesko says.

When this happens, it opens a veritable Pandora’s Box of other dental issues.

“Those teeth they won’t brush develop cavities. They develop periodontitis. It goes from being a maintenance issue to something in dire need of treatment, but that becomes even harder than just getting them to brush their teeth,” says Lesko.

Worse yet, many families cannot afford to provide the kind of dental care needed for their developmentally disabled child, no matter their age.

“Often, sedation dentistry is the best option for treating these cases, but many dental insurance plans won’t cover the sedation portion of the procedure,” says Lesko. “So parents are forced to pay for that out of pocket.”

Even with reduced rates and payment plans, many parents still can’t swing the added expense.

“It can be too high of a cost for an annual or bi-annual cleaning,” says Lesko, “so many parents just skip the dental visits altogether.”

So, what’s a parent – or a patient – to do in this situation?

“All we can do right now is lobby the insurance industry for better coverage for these types of situations,” says Lesko. “Or speak to your family dentist about your options. Preventative care – even expensive preventative care – still saves money in the long run over fixing a problem that has gotten out of hand.”