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Dental-Healthy Snacks for Your School-Aged Child

September 15th, 2021

Kids are constantly active and constantly growing. No wonder they’re constantly hungry! When it’s time for a snack, here are some tips to make between meal treats timely, tasty, and tooth-friendly.

Keep snacks to a minimum

Every time we eat, we’re also providing food for the bacteria in our mouths. Bacteria use sugars to produce acids. These acids weaken our enamel and can lead to cavities. Luckily, we have a natural way of protecting our teeth. Saliva washes away food particles and bacteria, and even provides substances that strengthen our teeth in the hours between meals.

When we eat throughout the day, there is no chance for this recovery period to take place. Small children aren’t usually able to get through the day without a few snack periods, which is perfectly normal. Just try to make sure that snacking doesn’t become all-day grazing!

Avoid foods that contain sugar and carbohydrates at snack time

We know that sugar leads to an increased chance of cavities because bacteria convert this sugar into acids that damage our enamel. But carbohydrates should also be in the no-snack zone. Why? Because carbohydrates break down into sugar very quickly. So while you wouldn’t offer your child a daily mid-afternoon snack of sodas and chocolate bars, those muffins, doughnuts, chips, and bagels should be on the “special treat” list as well.

Dental-healthy snacks

Luckily, we are left with many healthy and convenient choices when your child needs a nibble.

  • Crunchy, crisp fresh fruits and vegetables provide vitamins as well as a gentle scrubbing action to help clean teeth. They are also rich in water, which helps us produce the saliva that naturally washes away food particles and bacteria.
  • Low-fat yogurts and cheeses provide essential calcium for strong teeth and the vitamin D that helps us absorb calcium.
  • Whole grain breads, cereals, and crackers are healthier than products made only with white flour because they retain valuable vitamins and minerals that have been removed from refined grains.
  • Lean meats, peas, legumes, and eggs provide protein that helps build connective tissue and maintain tooth structure.
  • Water helps stimulate saliva production and provides cavity-fighting fluoride. Win/win!

You are constantly looking for ways to make your children’s lives better. Mix and match any of these foods for a snack that’s not only good for their teeth, but rich in the proteins, vitamins, and minerals needed to keep them active and growing throughout their school years. If you have questions about your child’s dietary needs, feel free to ask Dr. Matthew Scarpitti at our Orlando office.

Why Do Molars Seem to Get More Cavities?

September 8th, 2021

Probably because, for many kids, molars do get more cavities. So let’s answer two better questions: Why do molars get more cavities? And, how can we help prevent them?

It’s the Pits. (And Fissures.)

The reason molars are so useful—and more likely to develop cavities—is because of their shape. Unlike our front teeth, which are used to bite through foods, molars are used to grind and chew. That’s why they are so much larger, with a flat surface on top. Well, not exactly flat.

When you look at a molar, you’ll notice that the top isn’t really smooth at all. It’s covered with little indentations known as pits and longer grooves called fissures. These irregular features both trap food particles and make it more difficult for bristles to clean them away. Cavities in molar surfaces are so common that they even have a specific name: “pit and fissure cavities.”

But molar biology does not mean tooth decay is inevitable! There are steps you can take to protect your children’s molars as they grow, while you’re providing them with dental strategies that will keep their adult molars healthy and cavity-free.

Preventing Pit and Fissure Cavities

  • Don’t Just Brush—Brush Effectively

The first step in preventing any kind of cavity is brushing properly. Your child should be brushing at least two minutes, at least twice each day. And while the time we spend brushing is important, technique is also key.

When you’re showing your child how to brush, be sure that the tops of molars, upper and lower, get brushed thoroughly, with special emphasis on cleaning pits and fissures. Make sure the toothbrush is small enough to fit your child’s mouth comfortably and reach all the tooth surfaces. Replace worn-down brushes or electric toothbrush heads after three to four months when they no longer clean as effectively.

Your child will probably need adult supervision from toddler years through the early years of grade school to learn how to brush properly. This is time well spent, as your child learns cavity-preventing brushing techniques which will last a lifetime.

  • Eat a Tooth-Healthy Diet

Plaque bacteria use the sugars in our food to make acids. These acids break down the mineral strength of tooth enamel and eventually lead to cavities. And because pits and fissures are great hiding places for bacteria and food particles (especially sticky ones), molars are even more at risk for cavities. Limiting sugary, sticky foods like sweet treats and simple carbs helps reduce that risk.

Acidic foods like flavored juices, sour candies, sodas, and power drinks also weaken enamel and can leave teeth more vulnerable to decay. Help your child avoid cavities by limiting acidic foods and drinks, making them part of a balanced meal, and/or rinsing with water after eating.

  • Use Fluoride Toothpaste

Fluoride toothpaste not only reduces the risk of cavities, it also helps strengthen enamel that has been weakened by bacterial and dietary acids. Win-win!

  • Ask About Sealants

Sealants are invisible, safe coatings which protect molars by preventing food and bacteria from getting trapped in their uneven surfaces. The top of the molar is first treated with an etching solution to allow the sealant to bond tightly to the tooth, a thin coat of sealant is painted on, and then it’s hardened under a curing light. That’s all there is to it.

Sealants are often recommended when children’s permanent molars first erupt, when they are especially at risk for cavities. Sealants can last from three to five years (or even longer), and studies have shown a dramatic reduction in cavities for patients who use sealants compared to patients with untreated teeth. Depending on your child’s individual needs, Dr. Matthew Scarpitti might recommend a sealant for baby molars as well.

  • Regular Exams and Cleanings

It might be hard for you to tell if your child’s molars have been affected by sticky plaque, or sugary foods, or acidic drinks, or inadequate brushing, or any other potential cavity-causers. It’s not a difficult job for Dr. Matthew Scarpitti, though! Through regular checkups and cleanings at our Orlando office, we will discover any conditions that might lead to cavities, and, if necessary, treat small cavities before they lead to more serious decay.

Statistically, childhood molars have a greater chance of developing cavities than incisors and canines. Help your child beat the odds by understanding why these teeth are at risk and by working with your dental team to give your child years of healthy teeth now and a future filled with beautiful smiles!

Celebrate Labor Day by Getting Away

September 1st, 2021

Labor Day honors the contributions that workers have made to this country, and for many Americans, the holiday is a great time to relax at home with family and friends. But there are quite a few people who celebrate the holiday by getting out of town, with an estimated 33 million people traveling more than 50 miles over Labor Day weekend each year. If you’re dreaming of a great Labor Day escape but you’re not quite sure where to go, here are a few ideas from our team at Matthew E. Scarpitti, DDS to give you some travel inspiration.

Explore a National Park

On a national holiday like Labor Day, it’s only fitting to experience the beauty of America’s landscapes by heading to the nearest national park. If you’re confined to an office most days of the year, national parks can provide a relaxing and scenic escape, whether you’re by yourself, traveling with a group of friends, or bringing the whole family along. Depending on how close you live to the nearest park, you can stay for an afternoon or for longer than a week. With 58 parks located in 27 states, there are plenty of beautiful areas to choose from.

Chow Down in a BBQ Haven

Barbecuing is a popular Labor Day activity, but instead of sweating over your own grill or oven, try visiting one of the country’s BBQ capitals. U.S. News and World Report names Memphis as the top BBQ destination, with more than 80 BBQ restaurants in the city, most notably Corky’s BBQ and Central BBQ. Kansas City is also known for the sweet taste of its sauces, while central Texas is said to have perfected the technique of smoking tender and flavorful brisket.

Relax on the Beach

Many people think of Labor Day as the unofficial start of fall, which brings cooler temperatures, more rain, and for many people, an end to lazy days at the beach. End your beach days with a bang by taking a trip to one of the coasts or to a lakeside beach. For an added dose of festivity, find a city or town that celebrates the occasion with a fireworks display over the water.

Whether you’re looking to turn your getaway into a full week affair or you simply want to experience a quick escape, make the most of your holiday by changing your surrounding scenery. Happy Labor Day from the dental practice of Dr. Matthew Scarpitti!

Road Trip!

August 25th, 2021

The bags are packed, the trunk is loaded, the route is programmed into your GPS, the playlist is set, and your destination awaits! Sometimes there’s just nothing more appealing than a road trip. So, to make your trip even more enjoyable, here are some dental tips to help keep you feeling clean and fresh over the long haul.

  • Fuel Up

If you’re bringing some road snacks, be sure to include a few that will help clean teeth and freshen breath. Packing a supply of bottled water helps you stay hydrated, washes away food particles, and eliminates the bad breath caused by dehydration. Carrots and apples are not only nutritious and tasty, they apply a bit of gentle scrubbing action to your enamel as you chew. Traditional travel favorites like granola bars, beef jerky, and chips tend to stick to the teeth and provide cavity-causing bacteria a leisurely feast, so enjoy them in moderation. (If you’re driving, save the snacks for a rest stop—not only is eating while driving prohibited in some areas, it’s a distraction you don’t need on the highway.)

  • Roadside Diners

The occasional sticky, sweet, or chewy indulgence is fine at home, but when you have hours in the car ahead of you, you might want to turn down the pecan pie, the giant pretzels, and the roadside sea salt caramels. Again, cavity-causing bacteria love sugars and simple carbs, and food that finds its way into tooth crevices finds its way onto their menu. And, it goes without saying, passing up garlic, onions, and spicy foods will help your mouth feel fresher longer—and make your travel companions happier.

  • Car Wash

Bring a travel-sized toothbrush and tube of toothpaste with you for a quick cleaning when you stop for a break. A ventilated case will keep your brush dry (bacteria like damp conditions) and away from questionable surfaces. Disposable mini-travel brushes are available that come with a bead of cleaner pre-loaded and ready to use—you don’t even need water for a cleaner mouth and fresher breath. Food particles do not make good travel buddies so don’t forget dental picks or floss. And if you can’t brush right away, try a rinse with water or chew a piece of sugarless gum. Sugar free gum can help stimulate saliva production, which is a good way to wash away food particles and neutralize acids in the mouth.

  • Roadside Repair

Even with the best preparation, accidents can happen. That’s why you have a spare tire and a lug wrench in your trunk. It pays to be prepared for a dental emergency on the road as well. There are dental travel kits available in stores and online, or create one for yourself. Along with your first aid kit, pack dental picks, antimicrobial wipes, sterile gauze, a mirror, and any other supplies you think might come in handy. If you wear braces or a retainer, be sure to include dental wax in case of an uncooperative wire, and a case to protect and keep track of your retainer. And it’s a good idea to keep our Orlando office’s number on hand in case of emergency.

It’s a big country, and cruising the streets and highways is a wonderful way to explore it! But if you’re having any dental problems, be sure to see your dentist before taking off—after all your preparation, you don’t need a dental emergency to ruin your trip. Then, pack your bags, load your trunk, set your GPS, pick a playlist with something for everyone, and get ready to enjoy happy travels and healthy smiles!

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