Opinion

New Year’s Resolutions to Smile About

By Dr. Janis Moriarty

As 2019 draws to a close and Massachusetts residents think about resolutions for the New Year, we at the Massachusetts Dental Society suggest one resolution that will make everyone smile — better oral health.

Getting healthy is often at the top of the list when it comes to popular New Year’s resolutions, but it’s important not to overlook what can be done to improve your oral health. Regular brushing, flossing, and visits to the dentist will help you maintain a healthier mouth, as well as an overall healthier you.

Here are five ideas for resolutions that will help deliver a healthier smile in 2020:

• Visit the dentist regularly. Your teeth and gums hold important clues to other health issues. So, if you’re interested in maintaining good overall health as well as your smile, visit your dentist for a checkup and cleaning at least twice a year. An exam allows your dentist not only to help you maintain healthy teeth and gums, but also to be on the lookout for developments that may lead to future health problems, including oral cancer.

• Floss every day. In addition to brushing your teeth two times a day for two minutes, daily flossing will help remove the plaque that collects between teeth and reduce the likelihood of gum disease and tooth decay.

• Reduce your sugar consumption. Too many sweets doesn’t just wreak havoc on your waistline. Sugar is the ‘food’ for harmful oral bacteria that create acids that destroy tooth enamel and lead to cavities. To limit your sugar intake, avoid soft drinks, go easy on sugary juices, and limit carbs that break down into sugar. Instead, drink fluoridated water — which will help make your teeth more resistant to acid attacks that can cause cavities — and eat dairy and lean proteins that will help strengthen your teeth. Chewing fruits and veggies that are high in water and fiber also helps stimulate saliva production and wash away harmful acids and food particles.

• Stop biting your nails, chewing your pen, or chomping on ice. All of these habits increase the risk of chipping, cracking, or breaking your teeth. Nail biting can even lead to jaw dysfunction, since placing your jaw in a protruding position for long periods of time can place too much pressure on it.

• Stop any smoking or tobacco use. In addition to heart disease and lung cancer, smoking and tobacco products can cause a slew of oral-health problems, including bad breath and stained teeth, dulled sense of taste and smell, gum disease, and oral cancer. E-cigarettes also can have a significant impact on your oral health. The nicotine these products contain reduces blood flow, restricting the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the soft tissues of the mouth. This can cause the gums to recede and exacerbate periodontal diseases. Reduced blood circulation also inhibits the mouth’s natural ability to fight against bacteria, which can accelerate infection, decay, and other problems. –

Dr. Janis Moriarty is president of the Massachusetts Dental Society, a professional association representing more than 5,000 member dentists and a statewide constituent of the American Dental Assoc.


Flavored E-cigarettes Should Be Banned

By the American Academy of Pediatrics

​The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) opposes the guidance issued recently by the Trump administration, which will allow menthol flavored e-cigarettes to remain on the market, as well as all flavors for refillable tank-style products.

“The Trump administration failed to take the strong action necessary to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic. The guidance could have been a meaningful victory for children’s health and instead is a major missed opportunity that will still leave young people at risk for addiction,” said AAP President Dr. Sally Goza. “Science shows us that flavors lure children in, and this guidance will allow thousands of flavors — like mango, grape, and green apple — to stay on the market in vape shops across the country for use in refillable vaping devices. As a pediatrician, I know that children like flavored products. We give children flavored medicines because they taste better. But adding a flavor to a dangerous product like tobacco is a recipe for disaster.

“Menthol e-cigarette pods made by JUUL and others will also remain on the market, giving young people an appealing flavor to easily access,” she added. “The bottom line is that children are at nearly the same level of risk now as they were before this guidance came out, and that is a shame.”

An estimated 5.3 million middle- and high-school students currently use e-cigarettes. Use is becoming more frequent, an indicator of growing addiction. More than one-third (34.2%) of high-school e-cigarette users now report using 20 or more days per month, while 18% of middle-school users report such frequent use.

The AAP has long advocated for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use its existing authority to appropriately regulate all e-cigarettes — including removing menthol and other flavored products from the market — and has successfully sued the agency for allowing these products to remain on the market without public health review by FDA. In November, Goza attended a meeting at the White House to outline pediatricians’ concerns over e-cigarettes to President Trump and other administration officials.

“We are in the midst of a public-health emergency. E-cigarettes risk addicting an entire generation of young people to nicotine,” Goza continued. “Pediatricians are reporting their teenage patients are putting e-cigarettes under their pillows so they can vape overnight, and parents who frantically call our offices because their children can’t stop using the products. E-cigarettes are incredibly addictive to young people, and leaving any flavors on the market is dangerous for children’s health.”

In 2019, 64% of high-schoolers who used e-cigarettes reported using mint- or menthol-flavored products. This has spiked in recent years, up from 51% in 2018 and 42% in 2017.

Indeed, data on traditional cigarettes — for which menthol is the only flavor available — show that more than half of youth smokers ages 12-17 use menthol cigarettes, compared to less than one-third of smokers over age 35. The tobacco industry also has a history of targeting African-American communities with menthol products, leading to racial disparities and making African-American youth more vulnerable to nicotine addiction.

“Menthol— which is an ingredient in both mint- and menthol-flavored products — provides a cooling sensation that masks the harsh taste of nicotine, making it easier for children to get hooked. The idea that menthol is an adult flavor is just plain wrong,” Goza said.

“We need bold, decisive action to protect young people from e-cigarettes,” she added. “We will continue to do everything we can to protect our patients from tobacco and nicotine addiction.” –

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary-care pediatricians, pediatric medical sub-specialists, and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety, and well-being of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.

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