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Tips on Decreasing Susceptibility to the H1N1 Virus - Optimum Oral Hygiene Can Prevent Flu

According to Steven McConnell, DDS, teaching your kids to wash their hands frequently during flu season is a good idea, but brushing their teeth correctly could do more to prevent their actually coming down with a virus.

(PRWEB) November 30, 2009 -- According to the California Dental Hygienists’ Association, it is critical that the public see the link between oral health and flu prevention because the H1N1 virus spreads through respiratory system and mouth. The primary infection control goal is to prevent transmission of disease - that begins with the mouth.

Teaching your kids to wash their hands frequently during flu season is a good idea, but brushing their teeth correctly could do more to prevent their actually coming down with a virus, says Steven McConnell DDS. “One of the biggest misconceptions is the idea that children and teens can’t get gum disease,” he says. “But, in fact, they can, and just as with adults, gum disease can lead to illness in other parts of the body, including flu, pneumonia, chronic colds, sinusitis and ear infections.”

The Marin County, California-based dentist-on-a-mission who has three-year-old twins of his own, McConnell is eager to educate kids and their flu-fearing parents about the immediate health-enhancing effects of good oral hygiene. “Most people don’t realize the impact the bacteria in their mouths can have on systemic health,” he says. “If you have red, puffy, tender or bleeding gums – usually symptoms of gingivitis – they can become a portal of entry for bacteria into the bloodstream, and weaken your immune system. The bacteria that causes cavities can get drawn into the sinuses and lungs and cause respiratory and ear infections.” Also, most complications from this year’s flu virus is in individuals with secondary infections and gum disease is one such infection.

Recently nominated by his peers and selected by the Consumers' Research Council of America as one of “America's Top Dentists,” McConnell insists that good oral hygiene should begin before infants even get their first tooth. “Pathogenic, disease-causing bacteria is present in babies’ mouths. Keeping their mouths clean and healthy helps prevent sickness and disease throughout the body. By the time they have all their permanent teeth, the risk of gum disease is even greater.”

McConnell is big on teaching kids how to care for their own teeth. He uses an intraoral camera – a digital camera on the end of a wand that displays either video or still pictures of their teeth on a monitor -- to show them areas they are cleaning well, areas that need more attention and better techniques. “The kids love it!” he says.

Dr. McConnell shares his tips for teaching your kids flu-preventing oral hygiene techniques that parents can also use for their own benefit:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before practicing oral hygiene.
  • Floss daily.
  • Brush twice a day for two minutes focusing on the gum-line. Brush your tongue – it collects bacteria too.
  • Use good products. Sonicare toothbrushes and WaterPik dental water jets are excellent, the latter of which is especially good for kids with braces.
  • Visit your dentist every six months for a cleaning and check-up.
  • Air-dry your toothbrush in an upright position after using to allow bacteria to die when exposed to oxygen.
  • Replace your toothbrush at least every season. If you’ve been sick, replace it as soon as your illness is on the mend to prevent reinfection.
  • Never share your toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash or toothbrush holder.

Dr. McConnell’s Tips for Good Oral Hygiene from Day One:
  • On babies, before teeth are present, use single gauze or thin wash cloth to gently displace bacteria-rich film that sticks to gum ridges. As they get teeth, continue to use gauze or wash cloth. Be sure to use dental-friendly pacifiers and bottle nipples. Never put them to bed with a bottle as the pooled milk or juice can lead to severe decay.
  • As baby is comfortable, usually by age one, graduate to a small-head infant-sized brush using water or infant toothpaste. Before they are three, it is safe to use training toothpaste that is not fluoridated.
  • When all the teeth are in by ages two to three, use a toothbrush and child toothpaste. When the child is able to spit and doesn’t swallow the toothpaste, use fluoride toothpaste. Don’t allow swallowing of the toothpaste.
  • Parents should floss their child’s teeth until the child is able to do so themselves.
  • Reinforce good health and good early health habits by bringing your child in for regular dental visits.
  • Set a good example for your kids by taking great care of your own teeth and gums.
  • Be cautious with herbal or homeopathic teething remedies, as some contain very strong ingredients, like Belladonna. While not disapproved by the FDA, it is a strong nerve depressant.

Dr. McConnell is certified in restorative and cosmetic dentistry, and since 1978, the sole practitioner/owner of The Marin Center for Restorative & Cosmetic Dentistry in Novato, CA.

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