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March 7, 2006 > Don't Forget this Part of Your Fitness Routine-Your Mouth and Teeth

Don't Forget this Part of Your Fitness Routine-Your Mouth and Teeth

Caring for your teeth and mouth is just as important as keeping any other part of your body healthy. One of the best things you can do for good oral health is to get checked by a qualified dentist every six months.
Besides keeping your teeth and gums as healthy as possible, regular check-ups "can detect signs of nutritional deficiencies as well as a number of systemic diseases, including infections, immune disorders, injuries and some cancers," according to the California Dental Association.

The best way to find a good dentist is to ask your family and friends for recommendations. You can also visit the web sites of the American Dental Association ( and the California Dental Association ( Both organizations have "dentist finders" on their web sites, as well as other useful and interesting information about dental health.
"It's a good idea to call a dental office and make a get-acquainted appointment," advises Bernard Stewart, D.D.S., who has practiced dentistry in the Fremont area for the past 36 years. "You need to find a dentist with whom you feel a bond and are comfortable. Most dentists will be happy to meet with you."

Many of us think a dentist's most important job is treating cavities; however, cavities have become less common in recent years.

"Putting fluoride in toothpastes, the water supply and rinses has dramatically improved the health of people's teeth," reports Dr. Stewart. "The American Dental Association and scientific studies support all three of these measures."

The Alameda County Water District has been fluoridating the water in Fremont, Newark and Union City since the early 1970s.
While cavities have become less of a problem, dentists are seeing more individuals-even younger people-with gum disease. Because it is a painless condition, many people are unaware they have gum disease. And yet, if it goes untreated, it can destroy the bone holding the teeth. In addition, gum disease has been shown to lead to heart disease in some cases. Thorough cleaning and flossing every day will prevent gum disease in 90 percent of cases, according to Dr. Stewart.

Start early
Dental "fitness" is especially important for children. Children watch what their parents value.
"Parents should take their child to the dentist, just like they go to the pediatrician," says Steven Chan, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist who has practiced in Fremont for the past 28 years. "In pediatrics, we start seeing children routinely for their first visit at 12 months old."

By starting early, the dentist bonds with the child at an early age. It's not just about examining the child's teeth.

Dr. Chan explains: "Our role as a doctor is to teach. It's important to start educating the parents on what to look for and how to care for their child's mouth. Children continuously change. We watch babies grow up."

Contemporary pediatric dental offices are specifically designed to help children feel at ease. Rather than confining a child in a smaller, individual room, there is one large room with several exam chairs. Bright colors, toys, games and children's entertainment encourage the child to play while the dentist examines and treats their teeth.

"Cavities are the most common disease among children-even more prevalent than colds," reports Dr. Chan. "It's important for youngsters to go to the dentist so they can learn the model of good oral health."

Even a child's baby teeth should be examined and cared for. As with any illness, it's not a good idea to allow diseased teeth to remain in a child's body for very long. The earlier cavities or other problems can be identified, the more treatment choices the parent has.

Bottle Syndrome is something parents should learn to watch for. Children may develop cavities at a very early age due to drinking juice or milk from a bottle, or even nursing, for very prolonged periods of time. If the condition is caught early, it can be stopped, according to Dr. Chan.

Parents should also start children brushing their teeth at an early age, advises Dr. Chan. It is a good idea for the parent to help with brushing until their child has developed the appropriate fine motor skills. This is usually about the same time they are able to write their name in longhand.

Whether you're a child or an adult, when it comes to good dental health, there's no magic pill or easy way out. The answer is good brushing, flossing and regular dental care.

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