The Summer Solstice marks the onset of summer on June 20th at 6:34 p.m. EDT this year. Many of us wait the whole year for summer to appear on the calendar. “Summertime, and the living is easy.” We enjoy more relaxed schedules in our busy lives and if we’re lucky, we get to slow down and enjoy the warm, sunny weather, no school, outdoor entertaining and entertainment, as well as enjoying the beach, pool and many outdoor sports.
As your oral health expert, here are some of my recommendations for enjoying your summer and keeping your mouth and beautiful teeth, healthy. It's as simple as good oral hygiene, preventative maintenance, sports smarts and a delicious and nutritious daily diet.
Oral Hygiene and Checkups
With vacations, camp and afternoons spent at the playground, pool or beach, brushing twice a day and flossing is just as important in the summer as it is, year‘round. Kids of all ages just might need more reminders! Encourage brushing breaks and end each day with a thorough brushing and flossing before bed. The onset of summer is a good time to replace a toothbrush or electric toothbrush head, and to schedule a check-up before vacations, or going off to overnight camp. An ounce of prevention!
Preventative Maintenance and Sports Smarts
Fun activities and active lifestyles can sometimes create opportunities for mishaps, including dental emergencies. At a BBQ or sitting around the pool, try and enjoy cold drinks with crushed ice. Chewing ice cubes or biting down on hard candy or food can cause teeth to chip or crack, and damage can be done to the tooth’s enamel. Also be advised that eating chewy, sticky foods when you have loose fillings, crowns or veneers can open a Pandora’s Box of dental problems. And please don’t use your teeth to open a bottle or tear something open or apart. Your teeth are important tools for eating, chewing and talking – but not every day problem-solving tasks!
Don’t like the look or feel of corn on the cob that’s stuck in your teeth? Stay away from toothpicks and wooden food skewers, and floss instead. Toothpicks and wooden skewers can splinter or break off, causing damage to your teeth, gums or mouth tissue.
Baseball, tennis and other summer contact sports create the potential for bumps, bangs and bruises not to mention chipped or broken teeth. You have no idea how fast a fast ball is moving until you’ve been hit in the mouth! Sports mouth guards are not just for summer but are useful all year. Your oral health provider can custom make a mouth guard, or there are less expensive OTC options, as well. A sports mouth guard for the active child, teenager or camp counselor is a must on many parents’ summertime lists!
My advice is to eat well and stay hydrated, often! The right kinds of foods and drinks keep your body healthy and happy in the summer. Many fruits and vegetables have a high water and crunch content, acting like natural toothbrushes keeping teeth clean while keeping your body hydrated. Try apples, pears, carrots, celery, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, raw broccoli and cauliflower. Berries and melons are very healthy and thirst quenching, but fruits like watermelon, grapes and pineapple are delicious, but high in sugar content. Remember to drink plenty of water but stay away from sports drinks and soda. In addition to being full of sugar which is bad for your teeth, these drinks, and drinks high in alcohol, can lead to dehydration and dry mouth, which is known to cause tooth decay. And also be cautious with citrus drinks as over time, the acid in lemons and limes can be harmful to tooth enamel.
Say cheese! Low-fat calcium is light and nutritious in the form of milk, yogurt and cheese while strengthening and protecting your tooth enamel. According to the American Dental Association (ADA) low-fat calcium may even help reduce developing gum disease!
And say YES to sugarless gum! Studies using gum with the ADA Seal show that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals may help prevent tooth decay. Chewing sugar-free gum generates more saliva, nature’s self-cleaner for your mouth. Saliva washes away food particles in the mouth and between teeth, as well as neutralizes acids produced by cavity-causing bacteria.
Remember these simple tips for a summer full of fun, and don’t forget the sunscreen!