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Ask the Dentist: Summertime – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

All dentists see a list of patients in the summer with ‘non-dental’ dental emergencies. That is, incidents which have caused damage and injury to their mouths and teeth which were not anticipated. They result from an increase in seasonal accidents which are a direct result of outdoor vs. indoor activities.
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All dentists see a list of patients in the summer with ‘non-dental’ dental emergencies. That is, incidents which have caused damage and injury to their mouths and teeth which were not anticipated. They result from an increase in seasonal accidents which are a direct result of outdoor vs. indoor activities.

Dentists are asked how to avoid these unwelcome dental office visits, but invariably by those ‘struck’ by them. Kind of like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted!

One stand-alone accident waiting for a place to happen has to be running near a swimming pool. A child can experience as much oral damage as any tumble off a bicycle. Frequently teeth are broken, lips split open, with much trauma for victim and parent alike. Running along a beach by lake or river doesn’t earn you a ‘pass’ either. Dirt and sand can cause almost as much damage as concrete.

Another situation more common than anticipated is playing on ‘new’ playground equipment. Grandparents are more active with grandkids in the summer than winter – and sometimes it is a ‘rookie grandpa’ taking the kids to the new playground. Some of them are complex compared to the old swings made of a piece of 2”X 8” plank and a couple of chains. You don’t necessarily need an ‘app’ on your phone to navigate these new adventure playgrounds, but kids can and do injure themselves.

Parental supervision is often a necessity – even though it is a playground. The ‘play’ part of that word applies to the youngsters only! Another tidbit is that mouthguards are used much more frequently today than simply for junior hockey practice. Provide your child with one, and it doesn’t have to be professionally created. The ‘boil and bite’ variety can be customized for any child’s mouth, and often now are worn for many sports – even soccer. Some children use them for biking and skating – on ice or on rollerblades.

If the head can be struck, a mouth guard can prevent injury. Maintenance of family oral hygiene habits is more important than any other time. Firstly, you and your family are often out of your normal routine – visiting relatives or friends. Because your visit is just ‘temporary’ the inclination is to slacken off ‘at home’ flossing and brushing routines. Don’t ignore them! Teeth weakened by decay are more susceptible to breaking and cracking.

In warm weather, we consume more beverages with ice cubes for cooling. These cubes are often crunched on by both children and adults. It is almost addictive, and that habit can cause a visit to the dentist – and you may be a long way from home.

Another situation is the habit of consuming fruit juice. Juice doesn’t have any of the fiendish connotations of sugar and candy, but can be equally as harmful. Natural fruit contains sugar and acids. Some manufacturers of popular brand name beverages add sugar resulting in a higher PH factor.

Just because something has the name ‘juice’ in its name or label doesn’t imply good health. Acid will cause damage by demineralizing the enamel. Another factor is that even though natural juices contain acid and sugar, they are often packaged in concentrated form. These juices have an unbelievably high potential to cause cavities. Too much juice also contribute to diabetes, obesity, and other health issues.

It is still common to see toddlers in buggies in the Big Box stores with bottles firmly in place – sipping on beverages while parents shop. This sipping of supposedly healthy beverages is the worst offender. The sugar and acids have more time to do harm. When is the last time you saw a parent at the Big Box store brushing their child’s teeth in the bathroom because they were just sucking on a bottle for untold minutes?

One reason they sell so many hotdogs and soft drinks at $1.50 total is because it is not only the cheapest meal in North America but it takes time to load up your cart with $400 worth of stuff you didn’t even know you needed from the end cap “special” aisles!

Choose 100 per cent juice with no added sugar. Serve juice at mealtimes so that the food consumed can neutralize the effects of sugar and acids. Maintain your family’s oral hygiene habits even while ‘on the road’. One patient has a ‘travel bag’ with separate toothbrushes and paste just for road trips. Her family is rewarded with lower-than-average dental bills!

Dr. Michael Dolynchuk is a General Dentist practicing in Caroline and Red Deer.