SAN FRANCISCO- There’s a new, minty fresh weapon in the war against tooth decay. After seven years of development, military researchers present “combat gum.”

The peppermint-flavored, anti-cavity gum is designed for soldiers stationed in regions with limited access to fresh water. By chewing the gum for 20 minutes three times each day, soldiers can flush away plaque, reduce their risk of tooth decay and give their overall dental health a boost.

The United States Army Institute of Surgical Research estimates more than $100 billion is spent on dental care in the U.S. each year. Military officials hope their latest creation will reduce the occurrence of decay, keep soldiers healthy and slash Army dental bills.

Combat gum is not a suitable replacement for a proper oral hygiene routine, but the gum’s saliva-stimulating action fortifies the enamel and helps protect against cavities in environments where soldiers can’t easily brush and floss. An added anti-microbial peptide provides extra enamel support and periodontal benefits.

Clinical trials on combat gum start this month. The military will provide the gum to “high-risk” soldiers with three or more cavities. That accounts for 15 percent of the force.

So, how can a mere stick of gum fight tooth decay, gum disease and a host of other dental conditions? Never underestimate the power of spit.

“Chewing gum produces saliva, and saliva benefits dental health in two chief ways: it washes away irritants like food debris and plaque, and it facilitates the remineralization process,” says Dr. Robert Walley, a provider of comprehensive dentistry in San Francisco.

Remineralization occurs when teeth (namely the enamel) are fortified by the compounds found in saliva. The stronger your enamel, the less likely you are to experience tooth decay, which is considered an infectious disease.

Dental health suffers when there’s not enough saliva in the mouth. When saliva levels are low due to dehydration, medicinal side effects or illness, it is known as dry mouth. This condition creates the ideal oral environment for bacteria to spawn, decay to form and bad breath to develop.

The average civilian can’t purchase combat gum just yet, but regular sugar-free gum will still trigger saliva production and supply the mentioned dental health perks. To keep your mouth moist, clean and healthy, we at Robert M. Walley, D.D.S. recommend patients stay hydrated, keep a few sticks of sugar-free gum on hand for after meals and continue a good routine of at-home and professional dental care.

To learn more, contact our San Francisco office today. 

SAN FRANCISCO- We all know good dental health begins in childhood. Actually getting kids to brush and floss their teeth, however, is easier said than done. February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, so let’s discuss ways parents can prove victorious in the brushing battle with their children. Here are six:

1. Begin early. It’s never too early to implement good dental hygiene habits! If children are accustomed to a diligent schedule of brushing and flossing, they’re less likely to fight it once those toddlers years hit.

Even before the first tooth has sprouted, gently wipe an infant’s gums with a damp cloth to remove milk and food residue. Begin brushing once the first tooth erupts. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends babies see a pediatric dentist for an evaluation no later than his/her first birthday. At about age 4, allow your child to hold a toothbrush and try brushing his/her teeth (with your assistance, of course).

“Parents should place big significance on the health of primary teeth,” says San Francisco dentist Dr. Robert Walley. “These teeth reserve the space for permanent teeth and help guide them in. It’s important that permanent teeth enter into a healthy environment.”

2. Make brushing fun. It’s no surprise- kids like fun. Transform a blasé brushing routine into a fun-filled adventure by playing music, composing a special brushing song or bringing a friend (perhaps a favorite doll, action figure or stuffed animal) to the sink.

3. Involve the family.  Child see, child do. If you make brushing and flossing a priority, it’s likely your child will follow suit. Spiritedly brush and floss with your child to communicate how important (and fun!) dental hygiene is.

4. Let kids pick their equipment. Most kids crave independence. Thrill your child by allowing him/her to select their toothbrush and toothpaste. Just be sure the brush is an appropriate size and has soft bristles. If possible, we at Robert M. Walley, DDS recommend Sonicare For Kids for children ages 7-10.

5. Offer rewards. Measure your child’s brushing successes with a chart. Place a fun sticker on the chart after every fuss-free oral hygiene routine, and reward them with a small toy or tooth-friendly treat once he/she reaches a certain number. Meeting a goal is also a great feeling for a child.

6. Don’t give up. Of course, the effectiveness of each tip will vary depending on the age of your child. Tailor your techniques to your child’s age, but remain consistent. Certainly, there will be days where your child doesn’t want to comply, but ensuring their teeth and gums stay healthy is worth any struggles. Poor oral hygiene now translates to pricey and dangerous dental problems in the future.  

Have questions for us? Give our San Francisco office a call, or ask us at your next appointment. In addition to providing you with strong oral health and a dazzling grin, it’s our goal to equip you with the knowledge necessary to keep your family smiling. 

SAN FRANCISCO- To participate in the Olympics, athletes must be in peak physical shape and outstanding health…right? Research from 2012’s London Olympic games suggests otherwise. 

Professor Ian Needleman of the University College London Eastman Dental Institute led a study to learn how dental health problems affect the world’s finest athletes. At the 2012 London Olympics games, he and his team conducted oral check ups on more than 300 athletes at the athletes’ village. The team also collected personal assessments of how they felt their dental health affected their training and performance. Athletes haled from various countries and represented 25 sports. 

The study yielded some unexpected findings: 

   55 percent of the athletes had cavities. Of this number, only 41 percent showed reversible decay in the dentin.

   More than 75 percent had mild gum disease, known as gingivitis.

   15 percent displayed signs of periodontitis, which is a severe and irreversible form of gum disease.

   Almost half of the athletes had not visited a dentist for an exam or cleaning in the previous year.

   8.7 percent had never received a dental exam or cleaning. 

Researchers note many of the athletes showed oral health problems common in the populations of underprivileged countries.  

Perhaps the most shocking statistic, 18 percent of athletes admitted their dental health problems were negatively affecting their training regimen and performance. Researchers believe painful dental conditions, inflammation from gum disease and hindered self-confidence are the chief culprits in the decrease of performance. Nagging oral health problems can also serve as a major distraction during a stringent training schedule.

“Our teeth and gums are sensitive and are connected to our general health,” says San Francisco dentist Dr. Robert Walley. “If they aren’t healthy, it affects our day to day lives.”

Most of us aren’t preparing for an appearance in Sochi next month, but we can all take an important lesson from this study. Oral health has a strong link to our overall wellbeing. In order to be the best version of ourselves we can be, our teeth and gums must be healthy.

Contact us at Robert M. Walley, D.D.S. for a thorough cleaning and dental exam. Professional care combined with an adequate at-home dental hygiene routine is the only way to ensure your smile and overall health are at their peak. 

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