A Healthy Smile Starts at an Early Age

January 28, 2022

Few things are as wonderful as a child’s smile but keeping that smile healthy takes some effort. While their first set of teeth do fall out, not learning to brush or floss now leads to bad habits later. Tooth decay and infections can evolve into much more harmful diseases, but there are things you can do to get kids started on a path to good oral health.

Some Toothy Truths

  • Tooth decay, or cavities, is one of the most chronic childhood conditions in the United States.
  • It can cause extreme pain or even illness that could make it hard to eat, speak, and learn.
  • Around one in five children aged 5 to 11 has at least one untreated cavity.
  • Most bottled waters don’t contain fluoride, yet 69% of Americans get fluoride through local drinking water.

Smiles baby

Baby Teeth Tips

Keep a close eye on your baby’s teeth as soon as they come in. Talk to a dentist if you notice differences in color on the teeth, or stains or spots. Use a baby-specific toothbrush or washcloth to clean a baby’s teeth. Don’t start using toothpaste until they turn 2 years old.

Other tips:

  • Don’t leave a bottle with the baby at night or during naptime.
  • Never coat pacifiers with jelly, honey, or other sugary foods.
  • Avoid sugary drinks and juices and give your baby water instead. It’s a good habit and will help avoid childhood obesity.
  • Teach your child how to drink from an open cup near their first birthday.
  • Make sure they’ve seen a dentist between the appearance of their first tooth and before their first birthday.

Smiles family

Tooth Care as Children Grow

Usually, kids can’t wait for you to treat them like adults. Maybe they should start with their adult teeth. Help them create good oral hygiene routines for when those adult teeth start coming in.

Use fluoride toothpaste This is the best way to combat tooth decay. Studies have shown its 33% more effective than non-fluoride toothpaste. It is recommended everyone brush for two minutes, moving to different parts of the mouth. Parents and guardians should supervise children’s brushing habits until they’re old enough to brush solo.

Be consistent It’s best for kids to brush after every meal to get rid of bacteria that could harm teeth. They should at least brush each morning before school and each night before bed.

Floss Flossing each night cleans out those areas between teeth that are hard to get to. By starting at the gum line, they also remove plaque. Everyone should floss.

See your dentist The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommend that children have two checkups per year. Schedule their next visit if you can’t remember the last time they went.

No need for whitening toothpaste It sounds great, but most active whitening toothpastes have chemicals that can wear down the protective out layer on teeth. Just stick with fluoride toothpaste.

Pay attention If your child says their teeth hurt, get it checked out. It could be an infection that can spread from the tooth to other parts of the mouth or head.

Smiles girl

Give Us a Smile

Following these steps will get your kids on the path to having a healthy smile and those are great to show off.

If you can’t remember the last time your kids went to the dentist, schedule an appointment at AltaMed. Locations are inside the same places where you get medical care, women’s health services, and the other care your family need to grow healthy. Schedule an appointment at (888) 499-9303.

Sign Up for COVID-19 Updates

Sign up to receive email updates on the information that matters to you and those you love.

The Good and the Bad of Caffeine for Your Teen

November 24, 2021

It can be easy to forget that caffeine is a drug. It is specifically a stimulant. Just like other more dangerous stimulants — methamphetamine, cocaine, amphetamine, nicotine — it can be highly addictive.

That caffeine jolt is why some people can’t start their day without that first cup of coffee. They need the caffeine to help “get them going.”

People who try to eliminate caffeine from their routine can find themselves going through withdrawal. Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. Now, imagine that in your teen.

Marketing caffeinated sodas to adolescents and teens is common practice. Today there are so many more caffeinated options, including sugary coffees and energy drinks. Those may be fine to enjoy occasionally, but too much of a good thing is still too much.

caffeine blog

What Is the Right Amount?

Numerous factors go into determining the “right” amount of caffeine to consume. Weight and other health conditions are the biggest determinants. Up to 400 milligrams a day — or four cups of brewed coffee — is safe for most healthy adults.

Adolescents aged 12 to 18 should not have more than 100 mg of caffeine a day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That’s a cup of coffee or two to three cans of soda. More than that and you risk:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Hyperactivity
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

caffeine teens

Let’s Talk About Energy Drinks

These have become the go-to source of energy for busy students who are trying to stay on top of their studies while juggling so many different activities. They are branded with names like Amp, Bang, Monster, Venom, and Rockstar.

Some are sold as drinks with 70 to 240 mg of caffeine, and there are the “energy shots,” which can have 113 to 200 mg of caffeine. The drinks can also contain ingredients like sugars taurine, and guarana, which is another source of caffeine.

They can help increase alertness, energy, and attention. But the potential effects on blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing can be dangerous.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, energy drink-related emergency room visits doubled from 2007 to 2011. In 2011, 1 in 10 resulted in hospitalization. That year, 42% of all energy drink-related emergency room visits involved combining energy drinks with alcohol or drugs.

Potential Dangers

Nearly 1,500 kids aged 12 to 17 took a trip to the ER for an energy drink-related emergency in 2011. The dangers include:

  • Dehydration
  • Heart complications
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

The American Academy of Pediatrics says children and teens should avoid energy drinks entirely.

caffeine section

Other Caffeine Sources

Sodas, coffee, tea, and energy drinks are the big sources of caffeine. But it also shows up in other foods and even some personal-care products. They include:

  • Chocolate
  • Coffee-flavored foods
  • Snack foods, like energy bars
  • Lip balms
  • Skincare products like some eye creams, scrubs, and moisturizers
  • Weight-loss supplements

Find Alternatives

The best source of energy for adolescents and teens is sleep. Getting enough sleep is vital for the healthy development of young minds and bodies. Consuming caffeine only inhibits getting enough sleep.

Having a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can help maintain a steady stream of energy without the peaks and crashes that come from consuming too much caffeine.

Having a relationship with your AltaMed pediatrician is a good first step in raising a healthy and energetic child. We also have a host of wellness programs to get the entire family on a path to physical fitness and healthy food choices. 

Call AltaMed at (877) 462-2582 to get stared with us today.

Cutting Back on Added Sugar Brings Some Sweet Health Benefits

September 20, 2021

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m not a big fan of dessert,” and wondered what’s wrong with that person? Who doesn’t like a scoop of ice cream, a slice of pie, or a piece of cake?

Most people do. The problem is too many of us like to overindulge. Too much added sugar is a contributing factor to more than two-thirds of the people in the United States being overweight.

To make matters worse, sugar is in a lot of places we don’t expect. It’s in ketchup, spaghetti sauce, barbecue sauce, oatmeal, snack foods, salad dressings, and canned soups.

Knowing what counts as sugar and opting for foods with low or no added sugars can go a long way toward reducing your risk of developing some serious chronic health conditions.

Woman with Headache

What’s at risk

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, excessive consumption of added sugars can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and other metabolic conditions.

High-sugar foods often have little nutritional value. In addition to the potential health risks already mentioned, consuming added sugar can lead to:

  • Tooth decay
  • Poor mental health
  • Low energy
  • Premature skin aging

Men should not consume more than 36 grams of added sugar a day or 150 calories. Women should limit their intake to 25 grams or 100 calories. Children should not consume more than 12 to 25 grams of sugar a day.

For context:

  • A single serving of “healthy” breakfast cereal for adults contains 13 grams of sugar
  • A breakfast bar made with “real fruit” and “whole grains” contains 15 grams of sugar
  • A small serving of low-fat yogurt contains 22 grams of sugar
  • A 12-ounce can of regular, non-diet soda contains about 39 grams of sugar
  • A single serving of store-bought, bottled apple juice contains 42 grams of sugar

Spoon with Sugar

It’s all sugar

The University of California San Francisco created SugarScience to share information about sugar and its effects on health. One of its resources is a list of 61 different names for sugar that the food industry uses to sweeten products. Some are obvious with names that include the words, “sugar,” “syrup,” “sweetener,” and “cane.” But some aren’t so obvious:

  • Agave nectar
  • Barley malt
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Glucose solids
  • High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Maltodextrin
  • Mannose
  • Muscovado
  • Panocha
  • Saccharose
  • Sucrose
  • Treacle

Fruit on Plate

Tips for cutting back

This may sound counterintuitive but cutting back on added sugar is a lot easier than you may think. It’s presence in nearly everything makes it relatively simple to eliminate a few items from your diet to help reduce your sugar intake.

  • Off the table — Reduce the table sugar, syrup, and honey you add to tea, coffee, cereal, or pancakes. Cutting back by half is a way to wean yourself.
  • So long soda — Water is always the best choice. Diet drinks can satisfy your sweet tooth but drink them in moderation.
  • Fill up on fruit — Fruit has natural sugars and fiber. You can add berries, bananas, and dried fruit to sweeten your oatmeal, pancakes, or cereal. Frozen, dried, and canned fruits are good snacks. Just make sure canned fruits aren’t packed in heavy syrup.
  • Cut back — Start reducing the amount of sugar called for in recipes next time you bake. You won’t miss it. Extracts like almond, vanilla, orange, and lemon can be good substitutes.

Man Smiling

The benefits

Cutting back on added sugar has lifelong benefits that include:

  • Reduced diabetes risk
  • Reduced belly fat
  • More consistent energy
  • Reduced weight
  • Healthier-looking skin
  • Healthier heart

Keep yourself healthy

Health care isn’t just for when you’re sick — it’s to keep you healthy, too. AltaMed offers members a wide range of programs that can make it easier to live healthy, manage chronic conditions, lose weight, and achieve other important health goals. We use proven techniques to motivate you.

Our programs include dietician consultations, STOMP — family health and fitness program, Healthy Heart Program, and so much more. Call (888) 499-9303 to get started.