Healthy Teeth, Healthier Body

Healthy Teeth, Healthier Body

October is National Dental Hygiene Month. Maintaining good dental hygiene is not only essential for a bright smile but also for overall health. Poor oral health can lead to various dental issues, including cavities, gum disease, and even other health problems throughout the body. Fortunately, there are several simple yet effective ways to ensure your teeth and gums stay healthy.  

toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss
A regular regimen of proper brushing, flossing, and rinsing can help keep teeth healthy and promote overall better health. (Source: Samantha Kennedy, UF/IFAS)

The cornerstone of any effective dental hygiene routine is regular brushing. Dentists recommend brushing your teeth at least twice a day, ideally in the morning and before bedtime. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque, food particles, and bacteria from your teeth and gums. Brushing not only keeps your breath fresh but also prevents the buildup of harmful plaque that can lead to cavities and gum disease. 

Be sure to brush properly for the most benefit. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums and use gentle circular motions to clean all surfaces of your teeth. Do not forget to brush your tongue as well to remove bacteria that can cause bad breath. 

While brushing is crucial, it cannot reach all the areas between your teeth and along the gumline. That is where flossing comes in. Dental floss helps remove trapped food particles and plaque from these hard-to-reach places. Make it a habit to floss at least once a day, ideally before bedtime. Use a gentle back-and-forth motion and be careful not to snap the floss against your gums, as this can cause injury. 

If traditional flossing is challenging, consider using floss picks or interdental brushes, which can be more convenient and just as effective. 

Mouthwash and antiseptic rinses can be valuable additions to your dental hygiene routine. These products can help kill bacteria, reduce plaque buildup, and freshen your breath. Look for mouthwashes and rinses that contain fluoride for added protection against tooth decay. 

Please keep in mind, however, that mouthwash is not an adequate substitute for proper brushing. It’s essential to use these products as a complement to, not a replacement for, regular brushing and flossing. Rinses should be swished around your mouth for the recommended time on the label and then spit out. Avoid swallowing them, as they may contain ingredients that are not meant to be ingested. 

What you eat can significantly impact your dental health. A diet rich in sugary and acidic foods can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. Limit your consumption of candies, soda, and other sugary snacks, and opt for healthier alternatives like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

Calcium-rich foods like dairy products, leafy greens, and almonds can help strengthen your teeth. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day also aids in rinsing away food particles and maintaining optimal saliva production, which is crucial for neutralizing acids and protecting your teeth. 

Even with a diligent home dental care routine, regular visits to the dentist are crucial for maintaining good dental hygiene. Dentists can detect early signs of dental issues and provide professional cleanings to remove stubborn plaque and tartar. Aim to see the dentist at least every six months or as recommended by your oral healthcare provider. These visits can prevent minor issues from turning into major dental problems and ensure your smile stays healthy and bright. 

Maintaining good dental hygiene is not a difficult task, but it requires consistency and diligence. A healthy smile goes beyond aesthetics; it is an essential part of overall well-being. So, make dental hygiene a priority in your daily routine, and enjoy the benefits of a beautiful and healthy smile for years to come. 

An Equal Opportunity Institution. 

Grill Safely This Summer

Grill Safely This Summer

July is National Grilling Month, and there is nothing quite like the aroma of delicious food sizzling on the grill. However, it is important to prioritize safety when it comes to outdoor cooking to avoid any accidents or mishaps. Whether you are a seasoned grill master or a novice, here are six essential grilling safety tips to keep in mind for a worry-free barbecue experience. 

Choose the right location. Selecting the appropriate location for grill setup is crucial to ensuring the safety of people and property. Place the grill on a stable, non-flammable surface, such as concrete or bricks, and ensure it is a safe distance away from any flammable objects like trees, fences, or wooden structures, or heat-sensitive objects like vinyl siding. Avoid grilling in enclosed spaces, such as garages or covered patios, as it can lead to carbon monoxide buildup. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause death if inhaled in a large enough quantity. Grilling in open spaces will allow this gas to dissipate to safe levels.  

Keep a safe zone. Establish a designated “safety zone” around the grill to prevent accidents and injuries. Create a clear area of at least three feet in all directions, free from children, pets, and any foot traffic. This zone will provide a buffer between the hot grill and any potential hazards, reducing the risk of burns or accidental contact. 

Practice proper handling of propane. When using a gas propane grill, it is essential to handle the propane cylinder with care. Always inspect the cylinder for any signs of damage, rust, or leaks before connecting it to the grill. When transporting or storing propane cylinders, ensure they are in an upright position and never place them in hot or enclosed spaces. When connecting or disconnecting the cylinder, make sure all burners are turned off, and never smoke or place any other open flames (such as citronella candles) near the grill. 

chicken cooking on a grill
Always cook meat and poultry to the proper internal cooking temperature to ensure it is safe to eat. The minimum internal cooking temperature of chicken is 165 degrees F. (Source: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS)

Follow proper food safety practices. Safe food preparation practices are just as important as the grilling process itself. Avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards, utensils, and plates for raw and cooked foods. Keep perishable items refrigerated until they are ready to be cooked, and don’t let them sit out in the heat for too long. In hot summer temperatures, food should not sit out longer than two hours. If the temperature is 90 degrees F or higher, the time limit is one hour. Use a food thermometer to ensure that meats such as poultry are cooked thoroughly and reach the appropriate internal temperature to prevent foodborne illnesses. Contact the Extension office for a list of proper internal cooking temperatures for different food types. 

Monitor the grill. Never leave the grill unattended while it is in use. Grilling requires constant attention to avoid accidents and flare-ups. Stay vigilant and keep a close eye on the grill at all times. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, ideally a Class B or multipurpose one, and know how to use it effectively. In case of a grease fire, never use water to extinguish it, as it can cause the flames to spread. Instead, use baking soda or a fire extinguisher specifically designed for grease fires. 

Clean the grill. Maintaining a clean grill is not only essential for food safety but also for preventing flare-ups and extending the life of the grill. After each use, scrub the grates with a grill brush to remove any residue. Additionally, periodically inspect and clean the burner tubes and ports to prevent clogs and ensure proper gas flow. 

By following these six grilling safety tips, outdoor cooking can be safe and fun.

UF/IFAS is an Equal Opportunity Institution. 

Eating for Better Bone Health

Eating for Better Bone Health

As we age, our bodies undergo various changes, including a decrease in bone density, which puts us at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens the bones and makes them more susceptible to fractures. This condition is especially prevalent in older adults, and it can significantly affect their quality of life. However, there are some foods that can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis in older adults. 

Dairy products 

Dairy products are rich in calcium, which is essential for strong and healthy bones. Calcium is the primary mineral that makes up the bones, and getting enough of it in your diet can help prevent bone loss. Older adults are advised to consume at least three servings of dairy products per day, including milk, cheese, and yogurt. It is also important to choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products to reduce the risk of heart disease. 

fridge food organization
Dairy foods like cheese, milk, and yogurt are good sources of both calcium and vitamin D, which are two nutrients that help improve bone health. (Photo source: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS)

Leafy greens 

Leafy greens are another great source of calcium, and they also contain other essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin K, which helps with bone metabolism. Some of the best leafy greens for bone health include kale, spinach, collard greens, and Bok choy. These greens can be incorporated into your diet in a variety of ways, such as adding them to salads or smoothies. 

Fatty fish 

Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, are excellent sources of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, while omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and promote bone growth. Older adults are advised to consume at least two servings of fatty fish per week. If you are not a fan of fish, you can also get vitamin D from fortified foods, such as milk and cereal, or by spending some time in the sun. About 10 minutes of sun exposure a day can help boost vitamin D production in the body. 

Nuts and seeds 

Nuts and seeds are rich in several nutrients that are essential for bone health, including calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Some of the best nuts and seeds for bone health include almonds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds. These can be added to salads, oatmeal, or eaten as a snack. These seeds are also rich in fiber, which is important for digestive health. 

Fortified foods 

In addition to natural sources of calcium and vitamin D, there are also many fortified foods that can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. These include orange juice, cereal, and tofu, which are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. It is important to check the label of these products to ensure that they contain enough of these nutrients to make a difference. 

In conclusion, osteoporosis is a significant health concern for older adults, but it can be prevented by consuming a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients. Incorporating dairy products, leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and fortified foods into your diet can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and promote healthy bones. However, it is important to note that diet alone is not enough to prevent osteoporosis, and older adults should also engage in regular exercise and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. By taking these steps, older adults can improve their bone health and maintain their independence and quality of life. 

UF/IFAS is an Equal Opportunity Institution. 

It’s Okay to Talk About It

It’s Okay to Talk About It

WARNING: This article describes the signs, symptoms, and statistics of mental health challenges, particularly suicide, which may be triggering or unsuitable for some readers. Reader discretion advised. 

The United States is currently experiencing a mental health crisis. The isolation and confusion of the recent pandemic brought to light an astounding number of people living with depression, anxiety, and other mental health and substance use challenges. While many of these people have been dealing with these challenges since before the pandemic, the sheer scope of the crisis has been brought into sharper focus since the onset of COVID-19. 

One of the most difficult mental health issues to talk about is suicide. For many people who struggle with suicidal thoughts or for the families of those who die by suicide, it can be very painful and stigmatizing to discuss. Even for those outside those two groups, suicide is often a taboo subject. 

teamwork handshake

Supporting someone during a mental health challenge is just as important as supporting them during a physical challenge. By working together, we can help reduce the stigma of mental illness. (Photo source: UF/IFAS File Photo)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the overall suicide rate in the U.S. decreased 3% during the pandemic despite the fact that calls to suicide hotlines went up nearly 800%. For me, what this shows is that when people suffering from suicidal ideation reach out to the resources available to them, they improve their chances for a better outcome. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) shares these statistics on their website: 79% of all people who die by suicide are male; suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 and the 12th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.; 18.8% of high school students and 11.3% of young adults aged 18-25 experience suicidal ideation each year.  

When a person dies by or attempts suicide, those left behind often claim they did not see it coming, that they had no idea their loved one was having suicidal thoughts. In many cases, the person experiencing suicidal ideation conceals their thoughts and feelings from those around them. However, there are certain warning signs that may be observed in people experiencing suicidal thoughts. 

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) lists the following warning signs: talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself; looking for a way to kill oneself; talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose; talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain; talking about being a burden to others; increasing the use of alcohol or drugs; acting anxious, agitated, or reckless; sleeping too little or too much; withdrawing or feeling isolated; showing rage or talking about seeking revenge; and displaying extreme mood swings. 

(Please note this is not an exhaustive list, but these signs may be indicators that a person may be in acute danger and may urgently need help.) 

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. While suicide prevention is important every day of the year, I encourage everyone to take some time this month to learn more about mental illness and suicide. Taking the time to increase your awareness will help reduce the stigma of mental illness and suicide and may allow you to support someone experiencing a mental health challenge. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call or text 988 or text TALK to 741741. 

UF/IFAS is an Equal Opportunity Institution. 

Hydration in the Heat

Hydration in the Heat

Prudence Caskey, Santa Rosa County 4-H Agent. Photo source: UF/IFAS

Written by Prudence Caskey, Extension Agent II – 4-H Youth Development, UF/IFAS Extension Santa Rosa County

The hot Florida summer is approaching, and we all need to make sure we focus on hydration in the heat. Dehydration is very common in hot, humid environments. Many people do not drink the recommended amount of water. Many of us have our coffee in the morning and unless we go out to lunch and someone gives us water, we seldom think about water during the day. Another confusing concept is how much water we should drink. Growing up, we were told to get eight glasses of water a day. That is 64 ounces. Let’s see if that adage still holds true today.

How much water should I drink?

The best way to calculate how many ounces of water to drink is to multiply your weight by .67 or 67%. For example, a person weighing 150 pounds would need 100½ ounces or a little over 12½ cups. On the other hand, a person weighing 200 pounds would need 134 ounces or 16¾ cups.

Is that all the water I need?

No, as you sweat, you lose the water you have already consumed. If you are sweating for 30 minutes, you need to replenish your hydration with 12 additional ounces of fluid.

What fluid should I drink?

The main thing to remember when it comes to hydration is, just because it is wet does not mean you are being hydrated. Different fluids are absorbed by our bodies differently. Some alcoholic beverages remove hydration from our bodies as we drink them. Below is an example of how our bodies absorb some common beverages:

  • Water absorbed at 100%
  • Sparkling Water absorbed at 100%
  • Skim Milk absorbed at 90%
  • Buttermilk absorbed at 90%
  • Whole Milk absorbed at 80%
  • Apple Juice absorbed at 88%
  • Decaffeinated Coffee absorbed at 90%
  • Coffee absorbed at 80%
  • Sports Drinks absorbed at 50%
  • Energy Drink absorbed at 40%
  • Wine absorbed at negative 150%
  • Beer absorbed at negative 60%
  • Sake absorbed at negative 180%

    little boy drinking from water hose

    Staying hydrated in the heat of summer is an important part of sun safety. (Photo source: UF/IFAS File Photo)

  • Liquor absorbed at negative 300%

This is a huge concept to grasp if you plan on being out at the beach with your friends this summer. With this example, a well-hydrated 150-pound person consumes the required 100½ ounces of fluid. Then, at a gathering, they have three glasses of wine. The standard five ounces per glass would mean they have removed 22½ ounces from their hydration after drinking only 15 ounces of wine. Be cognizant of what you add to your coolers this year.

What are the signs of dehydration?

There are many signs our bodies will give us to signal dehydration. Headache, nausea, and muscle pains are common. However, the most common sign of dehydration is thirst. That’s right, if you are thirsty, it is your body’s way of letting you know you need fluids. Just be careful which fluids you choose this summer when you are out enjoying the Florida sun.

Learn more at:  https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/FY1409

UF/IFAS is an Equal Opportunity Institution.