Woman Teeth

Healthy Dental Habits Keep Diabetes and Heart Disease at Bay

Your mouth is literally the gateway to the rest of your body. It is the fueling port where we consume our food, beverages, and most medications. The digestive and respiratory tracts are accessed through the mouth.

Too often, our thoughts about the role our mouth plays in our overall health end with what we eat and drink. But practicing proper dental hygiene — brushing, flossing, and getting regular dental checkups — helps us maintain our overall health. Diabetes, heart disease, pneumonia, and birth complications are some of the conditions associated with poor dental health.

It Starts with Bacteria

Dentist Showing Dental Model

We introduce foreign objects into our bodies whenever we eat or drink. We chew, swallow, and move things along into our digestive system where bacteria in our gut break down the food to get the nutrients our bodies need.

Bacteria lives and thrives in dark, warm, moist places – like our mouths. If we don’t brush or floss regularly, that bacteria will grow unchecked fueled by the remnants of what we eat and drink.

When bacteria build up on our teeth, our gums become prone to infection, and they swell because our immune system is fighting that infection. Left uncontrolled, the chemicals that result from the infection slowly dissolve the gums and bones holding our teeth into place. That is gum disease, also known as periodontitis.

Poor Oral Health Leads to Health Problems

Dentist Showing an X-Ray to His Patient

Gum disease and tooth decay can be the source of intense pain and require expensive dental procedures. But sometimes that’s just the beginning. Over the last decade, research has found connections between oral health and a variety of serious diseases and conditions.

  • Heart disease — Oral bacteria, left to grow, can move their way into your bloodstream and infect the inner lining of your heart valves. These bacteria can also infect arteries, causing them to swell and clog, potentially leading to heart attacks or strokes.
  • Pneumonia — This is just one of the respiratory diseases that can be caused by bacteria from your mouth getting pulled into your lungs.
  • Birth complications — Low birth weight and premature birth have been linked to periodontitis. An infection in the mouth has been shown to hinder development of the fetus.

Health Conditions Contributing to Oral Problems

Dental Instruments

Just as poor dental hygiene can lead to health problems, certain diseases and conditions can contribute to oral problems.

  • Diabetes — People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease, while people with gum disease can develop diabetes. Inflammation in the mouth seems to lower the body’s ability to control blood sugar, which is a problem for people with diabetes. The high blood sugar that can come with diabetes makes it harder for the body to fight infections — including gum infections. Studies have also shown good oral health can improve diabetes control.
  • Osteoporosis — The disease weakens the bones making periodontal bone and tooth loss more likely.
  • Obesity — Studies have shown periodontitis can progress more quickly in people with higher body fat.

Brush Up on Your Dental Routine Basics

Woman Brushing Teeth

Taking just a few minutes each day to properly care for your teeth can pay big rewards by improving your overall health. Good dental hygiene includes:

  • Brushing twice daily with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste
  • Flossing daily
  • Using mouthwash to remove bits brushing and flossing may miss
  • Eating a healthful diet and limiting foods with added sugar
  • Replacing your toothbrush at least every three months
  • Avoiding tobacco use – that includes vaping, which may be just as bad for your teeth as eating a candy bar, drinking a soda, and not brushing.
  • Scheduling regular dental checkups and cleanings

Regular cleanings and checkups help you stay on top of any developing situations. Also, few things make you feel as put together as bright, shining, professionally cleaned teeth.

We Can Help

Doctor Showing Radiography to His Patient

AltaMed Dental Services has highly skilled dentists and hygienists to help you maintain your healthy smile or get you back on the path to dental health. Call (888) 499-9303 to make an appointment or get more information online.

Get started with AltaMed

See how AltaMed Health Services can help your family grow healthy.

Learn More

AltaMed two Kids Brushing their Teeth

Keeping Your Child’s Smile Healthy

Seeing your child smile is a great feeling. Keeping that smile healthy can take some work. Children’s dental health can be easy to overlook, but the truth is it’s essential to their overall wellbeing. Pain or infections caused by tooth decay can lead to serious physical and mental complications down the road. Check out these helpful facts and tips to keep your child, and their mouth, feeling good.

A Mouthful of Facts

Kid Smiling
  • Cavities (tooth decay) are one of the most common chronic childhood conditions in the United States.
  • Roughly 20% of children ages 5 through 11 has at least one untreated cavity.
  • Tooth decay can cause extreme discomfort or disease that could lead to difficulty eating, speaking, and learning.
  • 69% of Americans get fluoride through local drinking water, which can help protect teeth. Most bottled waters do not contain fluoride.

First Steps: Dealing with Baby Teeth

Baby Showing Teeth

It’s important to begin monitoring your infant’s teeth as soon as they come in. Check for consistency in coloring and alert a dentist if you notice any stains or spots. Clean with a soft washcloth or baby-specific toothbrush. Around the age of two, you can begin using a regular, fluoride toothpaste.

Check out some more quick pointers for keeping their first set of teeth in tip-top shape:

  • Avoid leaving your baby with a bottle at night or during naptime.
  • Never cover pacifiers with sugary substances like honey.
  • Start healthy habits early by skipping sugary drinks and juices and go for water instead. This is a great way to help fight childhood obesity, too.
  • Around their first birthday, teach your child how to drink from an open cup.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends scheduling your child’s first visit to the dentist once their first tooth appears, or no later than their first birthday.

Tooth Care for Tots, Teens, and Everyone in Between

Child Brushing His Teeth

Once their adult teeth start coming in, children should start caring for their teeth like adults, too. Establishing a routine will make it easier for them to remember and learn lifelong healthy habits.

  • Brush with Fluoride Toothpaste

The National Institute of Health recommends using toothpaste with fluoride for best results. Studies have shown that fluoride toothpaste is 33% more effective at preventing tooth decay. Dentists recommend brushing for a full two minutes, alternating between different areas of the mouth. It’s important to supervise your child’s brushing habits until they are old enough to brush on their own.

  • Be Consistent

Children should brush their teeth after every meal to remove potentially harmful bacteria. At a minimum, kids should brush in the morning before school and at night before bedtime.

  • Floss

While brushing will help get rid of food buildup on the surface of their teeth, be sure to have you children floss in the evening as well. Flossing will clean the hard-to-reach areas between teeth and at the start of the gum line, removing plaque before it becomes harmful. Flossing is recommended for everybody from young children to teenagers.

  • Visit the Dentist

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, most children need two scheduled checkups per year to maintain a healthy smile. Can’t remember the last time your child visited the dentist? It may be time to pick up the phone.

  • Avoid Whitening Toothpaste

A shiny, white set of teeth may sound ideal, but don’t risk your child’s health trying to get them. Many active whitening toothpastes contain harmful chemicals that can wear down enamel (your teeth’s protective outer layer). Be sure to stick with regular, fluoride toothpaste instead.

  • Don’t Ignore Warning Signs

If your child begins to experience any unusual pain, such as a toothache, seek professional help as soon as possible. Strong discomfort can often signal an infection which may spread to the jaw, neck, or head.

Don’t Forget to Smile!

Little Girl Smilling

By following these steps, you can rest easy knowing your child’s smile is happy and healthy. If you’re not sure of the last time you or your children went to the dentist, schedule an appointment at AltaMed. Our dental offices are conveniently located inside the same locations that provides medical care, women’s health services, and all the other care you and your family need to grow healthy. Find one today.

Kid drinking orange soda

Your Guide to Choosing Healthy Drinks for Your Family

Maybe you’ve heard the recent news about a group of pediatricians calling for a tax of sugary sodas to help curb consumption.

You may have also read recent reports that drinking diet sodas has been linked to health problems like stroke, heart attacks, and even a higher risk of diabetes.

Or maybe you’ve been warned about giving your kids too much juice, as the extra sugar maylead to cavities.

All of this information can leave you thinking, “What are my children and I supposed to drink?”

Relax! AltaMed’s got you. Learn more about your drink choices, and how to drink them while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


Soda and Sugar

Soda is full of empty calories meaning there are no nutritional benefits or vitamins in soda. Sugar-sweetened beverages may be the leading dietary cause of Type 2 diabetes.

  • The added calories and sugar in soda can lead to weight gain and obesity, which can lead to diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
  • The sugars and acid in soda are also bad for your teeth, promoting tooth decay, oral disease, and even bad breath.
  • Soda’s mix of sugar and caffeine may make you urinate more frequently, potentially leading to dehydration.

The bottom line: Consider soda a treat like chocolate cake or a candy bar and only consume it once a month. Soda is not recommended for children still drinking from a bottle.

Diet Drinks/Sugar-Free Soda

Choose Between Water and Soda

People often choose diet soda, thinking it’s a healthier option and that fewer calories can help weight loss efforts. But almost all the research says the opposite: consumption of diet sodas has been tied to weight gain. This may be because of aspartame, the artificial sweetener used in diet soda. The way diet soda delivers sweetness without providing calories or nutrients may trick thebrain into overeating. Over time, aspartame may also dull your taste buds, so you need increasingly sweet tastes before your brain realizes you’re eating something sweet.

  • Even though they don’t have sugar, diet sodas have been linked to stroke, diabetes, and increased risk of obesity.
  • Some people experience sensitivity to artificial sweeteners that could result in headaches, nausea, or dizziness.
  • Added caffeine may make it harder to get a good night’s sleep.

The bottom line: Sip these as sparingly as the full-sugar versions – no more than once or twice a month.

Sports Drinks

Girl drinking sports drink

Even though you would think you’re getting something healthy, sports drinks aren’t much better than sodas. It’s true that sports drinks have added nutrients like sodium, potassium, and calcium, but you don’t need them, unless you’re participating in strenuous exercise.

  • Added sugar could cause obesity or diabetes.
  • Added sodium may elevate blood pressure.
  • Most sports drinks contain food dyes – some of which have been linked to hyperactivity in children.

The bottom line: Unless you or your child is doing vigorous exercise for 30 minutes or longer, skip the sports drinks.


Girl Clutching a Juice

Juice seems like it should be all-natural, right? But many juices you buy at the store contain significant amounts of added sugar. Even though it’s made from fruit, juice doesn’t deliver the same nutritional benefits you’d get from eating the whole fruit.

  • Juice delivers a concentrated amount of fruit sugar with none of the fiber.
  • These extra calories in juice can lead to weight gain and increased risk of diabetes and more.
  • When placed in baby’s bottle, juice can lead to tooth decay.

The bottom line: If you’re going to buy juice, read the label carefully to make sure it has as few ingredients as possible – ideally, just juice from the fruit and nothing more. It is ok to enjoy juice occasionally, but if you’re giving it to a child, make sure you give them a kid-sized portion in a cup, not a bottle!


Father Helping His Son to Drink Water

Water should be your whole family’s go-to drink! It’s cheap and free of calories, chemicals, and additives. Here’s a few more reasons why we love water:

  • Water helps keep you hydrated.
  • It helps you feel full, which could mean eating less and saving calories at meal time.
  • Drinking water hydrates your skin and your joints from the inside out.

The bottom line: The old advice about drinking eight ounces of water eight times a day isn’t bad advice, but some people might not need quite so much. If you’re athletic, breastfeeding, or living in a hot or humid climate, you may need more.

Looking for more tips on healthy living for you and your family? Bookmark the AltaMed Health and Wellness page! Find articles about making fitness fun, kid-friendly oral health tips, disease prevention, and much more.

Healthy Dental Habits Keep Diabetes and Heart Disease at Bay