Back to Top Skip to main content

Eat an apple a day, but don't keep the dentist away

A child eats an apple during a Trunk-or-Treat event, which featured a healthy snack station as an alternative to candy, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jimmie D. Pike) A child eats an apple during a Trunk-or-Treat event, which featured a healthy snack station as an alternative to candy, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jimmie D. Pike)

Recommended Content:

Deployment Health | Health Readiness | Nutrition | Preventive Health

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — From sodas and desserts to fruits and vegetables, sugar can be found in just about anything that’s consumed. While it’s part of almost any diet, sugar can impact more than weight and well-being. It can affect oral health, too.

Army Lt. Col. Paul Colthirst, deputy consultant for Dental Public Health and commander of the Fort Polk Dental Health Activity, said the oral cavity, which includes teeth, tissues, and gums, can tell the entire story of a patient’s overall health. Since everything passes through the mouth, proper nutrition is critical for good oral health, he said.

“Oral health is a big part of mission readiness, so it’s important for service members and their families to take care of their teeth, but it takes more than brushing,” said Colthirst. Tooth decay, a primarily diet-based disease, is one of the main causes for dental emergencies among deployed service members – and it’s preventable.

Colthirst said eating a poor diet filled with carbohydrates, sugars, and starches can lead to various dental health issues, including gum disease and tooth decay. Tooth decay is caused by the breakdown of the enamel – the tooth’s protective layer. When these foods are consumed, they produce sugars and plaque, a sticky film filled with oral bacteria. While consuming the sugars, these bacteria release acids that then break down the enamel, which leads to decay, he added. As the enamel weakens, cavities are formed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease for young people ages six to 19 and affects nine out of 10 adults older than the age 20 to some degree.

“People tend to believe that as long as they brush their teeth a couple of times a day that their dental health is assured, but there’s a lot more that goes into having good dental health and strong teeth that comes from nutrition,” said Army Maj. Susan Stankorb, a dietitian at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Stankorb said tooth decay can be caused by sugar- and starch-filled substances, such as candy, juice, soda, and energy drinks. Snacking frequently and drinking beverages other than water in between meals causes the acidity in the mouth to increase and prolongs the amount of time the teeth are in breakdown mode, she added. 

“If you’re more of a grazer and you tend to eat fermentable carbs – crackers, anything sticky, chewy, sugary – that will sit in your mouth, you’re going to be more prone to having cavities or dental issues if this habit is consistent over time,” said Stankorb. The average acidity, or pH, of saliva is 7. On a scale of 0 to 14, this is considered neutral. Sticky or sugar-filled foods tend to bring the pH level down to about a 5.5 – the level where the cavity process begins.

While some nutritious foods containing natural sugars, including milk and fruit, should be included in the diet regularly, foods with added sugars should be limited. Reading labels helps keep track of the amount of sugar, carbohydrates, and starch in food and drinks. However, it’s important to also consider the serving size and number of servings per package. Stankorb recommends eating on a regular meal and snack schedule with at least three hours in between meals, and limiting non-nutritious snacks high in added sugars.

“If something acidic like soda or juice was consumed, we recommend not brushing immediately afterward because that can be very hard on the enamel,” said Stankorb, who recommends waiting at least 20 minutes to brush teeth; in the meantime, drink water to rinse the mouth. Staying hydrated with water produces saliva, which neutralizes pH in the mouth, prevents decay, and hardens teeth, she added. 

Foods that can help with dental health include nuts, raw vegetables, yogurt, and cheese. Hard cheese, such as cheddar, helps neutralize decay-causing acids that are produced by bacteria in the mouth. Army Maj. Akeele Johnson, a general dentist at the Fort Polk Dental Health Activity, recommends these steps to help maintain or improve dental health:

  • Drink sugary or acidic drinks quickly to limit exposure to teeth, and drink them through a straw to minimize contact with the teeth.
  • Replace sugary beverages with sugar-free drinks, water, or unsweetened coffee or herbal tea.
  • Limit juice to 6 ounces of calcium-fortified juice per day.

Teeth should be brushed twice a day in circular motions with fluoride toothpaste and the mouth should not be rinsed after brushing, said Johnson. By not rinsing or consuming anything for 20-30 minutes after brushing, fluoride is able to stay on the teeth for protection.

“Oral health is a showstopper,” said Johnson. “We want people to have good health, and we’re here to help.”

You also may be interested in...

Heat Illness

Infographic
4/1/2019
Heat Illness

This report summarizes reportable medical events of heat illness as well as heat illness-related hospitalizations and ambulatory visits among active component service members during 2018 and compares them to the previous 4 years. Episodes of heat stroke and heat exhaustion are summarized separately.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Exertional Rhabdomyolysis

Infographic
4/1/2019
Exertional Rhabdomyolysis

Each year, the MSMR summarizes the numbers, rates, trends, risk factors, and locations of occurrences of exertional heat injuries, including exertional rhabdomyolysis. This report includes the data for 2014–2018.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Exertional Hyponatremia

Infographic
4/1/2019
Exertional Hyponatremia

Each year, the MSMR summarizes the numbers, rates, trends, risk factors, and locations of occurrences of exertional heat injuries, including exertional rhabdomyolysis. This report includes the data for 2014–2018.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Lyme Disease

Infographic
4/1/2019
Lyme Disease

Each year, the MSMR summarizes the numbers, rates, trends, risk factors, and locations of occurrences of exertional heat injuries, including exertional rhabdomyolysis. This report includes the data for 2014–2018.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Infographic
3/20/2019
Sexually Transmitted Infections

This report summarizes incidence rates of the 5 most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among active component service members of the U.S. Armed Forces during 2010–2018.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Testosterone Replacement Therapy

Infographic
3/20/2019
Testosterone Replacement Therapy

With the increasing number of testosterone deficiency diagnoses and potential health risks associated with initiation of TRT, it is important to understand the epidemiology of which U.S. service men are receiving TRT and whether these individuals have an indication for receiving treatment.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Vasectomy

Infographic
3/20/2019
Vasectomy

There are few published studies of vasectomy and vasectomy reversal among the U.S. military population. To address these gaps, the current analysis describes the overall and annual incidence rates of vasectomy among active component service men during 2000–2017 by demographic and military characteristics and by type of surgical vas isolation procedure used. In addition, the median age at incident vasectomy and the time between incident vasectomy and first vasectomy reversal are described.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Male Infertility

Infographic
3/20/2019
Male Infertility

The current report updates and expands on the findings of the previous MSMR analysis of infertility among active component service men. Specifically, the current report summarizes the frequencies, rates, temporal trends, types of infertility, and demographic and military characteristics of infertility among active component service men during 2013–2017.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Adenovirus

Infographic
3/1/2019
Adenovirus

During August–September 2016, U.S. Naval Academy clinical staff noted an increase in students presenting with acute respiratory illness (ARI). An investigation was conducted to determine the extent and cause of the outbreak.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Malaria

Infographic
3/1/2019
Malaria

Since 1999, the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report has published regular updates on the incidence of malaria among U.S. service members. The MSMR’s focus on malaria reflects both historical lessons learned about this mosquito-borne disease and the continuing threat that it poses to military operations and service members’ health.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Glaucoma

Infographic
3/1/2019
Glaucoma

This report describes an analysis using the Defense Medical Surveillance System to identify all active component service members with an incident diagnosis of glaucoma during the period between 2013 and 2017.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

National Nutrition Month 2019

Infographic
2/25/2019
This infographic discusses the types of foods that make up a healthy eating plan.

This infographic discusses the types of foods that make up a healthy eating plan.

Recommended Content:

Nutrition

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Infographic
1/29/2019
HPV

At the time of this report, there were no published studies of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) incidence over time among active component U.S. military personnel. Examining the incidence rates of NAFLD and their temporal trends among active component U.S. military members can provide insights into the future burden of NAFLD on the MHS.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Acute Flaccid Myelitis Case Reporting

Infographic
1/29/2019
Acute Flaccid Myelitis Case Reporting

This case highlights important clinical characteristics of acute flaccid myelitis and emphasizes the importance of including AFM in the differential diagnosis when evaluating active duty service members and Military Health System beneficiaries presenting with paralysis.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Cardiovascular disease-related medical evacuations

Infographic
1/29/2019
Cardiovascular disease-related medical evacuations

This descriptive analysis summarizes the demographic characteristics, counts, rates and temporal trends for Cardiovascular disease-related medical evacuations from the CENTCOM area of responsibility. In addition, the percentage of those evacuated who had received pre-deployment diagnoses indicating cardiovascular risk is summarized. Responses to questions regarding health status and physician referrals on the DD2795 are also summarized.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 16 - 30 Page 2 of 6

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing | Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.