We’ve all heard that sugar is bad for your teeth, but the relationship may not…
Here at your Overland Park dental office, we occasionally get asked whether summer heat is bad for our teeth. The short answer? Yes and no. Sure, it’s possible for sudden temperature changes to cause the enamel of your teeth to expand and contract, which can lead to cracking, but the change in temperature outside isn’t likely to fluctuate fast enough to cause that kind of reaction. What can damage our teeth, though, are the foods and beverages we reach for on a hot summer day.
In other words, when it’s extremely hot outside and you’ve been particularly active, you might want to think twice before you take a big gulp from one of those frozen slushie drinks you get at the convenience store. Slow down a bit to give your teeth time to acclimate to the sudden change, and as a bonus, you’ll avoid painful “brain freeze.” What else may cause dental health problems during the summer? Quite a few things, actually! Let’s discuss a few of them so that we all head into the summer better prepared.
Summer Sweets – Summer heat may lead to poor dietary choices which can, in turn, lead to dental problems down the road. In the summer, we find so many sweet treats readily available at the pool, at convenience stores, and just about everywhere else. Heck, the ice cream truck may even drive down your street, bringing temptation right to your doorstep! And while a cold ice cream may sound incredibly refreshing on a hot day, most of those frozen desserts are loaded with sugar that can speed tooth decay and worsen tooth sensitivity. All of that sugar on top of the aforementioned temperature shifts can be a recipe for dental problems.
Sugary Drinks – Desserts aren’t the only places that sugars and other tooth-damaging ingredients are hiding, either. When we’re active outdoors during the summer—participating in summer sports, playing frisbee at the park, riding our bike, mowing the lawn—we have a tendency to reach for soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, and even fruit juices to quench our thirst. Problem is, none of those are as effective at rehydrating as water, and they contain sugars and acids that can weaken your tooth enamel. If you do have a soda with your meal, try drinking it through a straw. It’ll help to keep these acids away from your teeth, where they do the most harm.
Summer Snacks – During the summer, we tend to do a lot, and our schedules change. Whether we’re taking a family vacation or a trip to the park, mealtimes don’t always happen when they normally would. When we’re on the go, we’re more likely to reach for a quick snack instead of a well-thought-out meal, so it’s a good idea to keep plenty of healthy options on hand, both in your kitchen and while you’re on the go. Fortunately, there are lots of healthy snacks to choose from: slices of watermelon, yogurt parfaits made with fresh fruit, vegetable sticks with hummus, chicken salad, you name it!
Lapses in Routine – Meals aren’t the only things that suffer when our routines change during the summer. Whether you’re at home or on the road, you should be sure to stick to your regular oral care regimen. That means brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once, plus making regular visits to see your Overland Park dentist. That may be easier for parents to manage than kids, though. After all, we’ve still got to go to work every day, so our routines don’t change as much as they do for kids who are enjoying summer vacation. Even if the kids stay up late playing in the yard or watching the fireworks on the 4th of July, it’s important that they stick to a regular brushing and flossing routine. Remind them to take their toothbrush along when they go to a sleepover at a friend’s house, too.
Mouth Injuries – If your child is playing summer sports, he or she should definitely be wearing a mouthguard. Dental injuries can damage teeth, split lips, and more. You’ll want to exercise a little caution outside of organized sports, too. Even if your kid is just playing at the pool, a slip on a wet surface can result in a dental injury. If there is one, you should contact your Overland Park dentist right away, because even a minor injury could have a big impact on your child’s teeth and gums.
Being Away from Home – We already mentioned sleepovers at a friend’s house, but that’s not the only reason your kids might be away from home during the summer. Whether they’re off to summer camp or simply visiting relatives, be sure that they pack their toothbrush, floss, and anything else they need to keep to their regular oral care routine. And while we’re on the subject, this doesn’t just go for kids. If you’re taking a vacation or traveling for work, you’ll want to pick up a travel-size toothbrush plus toothpaste, floss, and all the other dental care accoutrements to take with you. It might even be a good idea to keep some in your desk drawer at the office!
Too Much Sun on Your Face – Wait, what? You read that right. While sunscreen is important for anyone who is planning some fun in the sun, whether at the park or the pool, hiking or biking or just sitting out in the yard and soaking up some rays, it also pays not to forget the lip balm! You see, your lips are actually more vulnerable to sun damage than the rest of your body, because they have less melanin. Pick up some lip balm with an SPF rating that will help protect your lips and keep them from drying out while you bask in the sun.
The Ice Cubes – Of all the advice that we give our patients when summer heat rolls around, one of the most important is this: Don’t chew on ice cubes! Sure, it’s a quick way to cool off when you’re feeling dehydrated, but it can also do some significant damage to your teeth! Seriously, ice cubes can actually chip or crack teeth, and that’s in addition to what we already talked about regarding tooth sensitivity and rapid temperature changes. If you’re feeling like chewing on ice, just drink a tall, cool glass of water instead. Your teeth will thank you, and so will your Overland Park dentist.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but no matter what you’re up to this summer, make sure to stick with your regular dental appointments. We love to see you, and summer is a great time to schedule one of your bi-annual appointments to beat the back-to-school rush. Plus, we can give you more advice on how to keep your teeth (and everything else) healthy throughout the year! Come see your Overland Park dentist or call Watts Family Dental at (913) 338-3384 to schedule an appointment!