’Tis the Season for Dental and Vision Health Traditions

At Advantica, we always have your dental and vision health in mind. And that doesn’t stop during the holidays. So we’ve come up with fun and unique ways to incorporate your dental and vision health with new holiday traditions and gift-giving ideas.

Elf on the Shelf can teach good health habits

This popular elf can promote good dental and vision health habits with your kids. He or she can encourage healthy snacking by sitting next to the fruit bowl. Or how about if the elf was wrapped up in dental floss and left a note about flossing daily? The elf can even bring gifts of new toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Sunglasses and other vision wear make great gifts

Sunglasses make a great holiday gift. They should be used in the winter, and it’s a nice reminder of the summer though it may be months away. Other vision wear like swim goggles and computer glasses or blue light blocking eyewear are useful gifts for the kids and entire family. Eyeglass holders come in all sorts of varieties for all personalities, and they’re also a useful gift for your friends.

Bring along a pomegranate

When you go to your holiday parties or family gatherings, instead of arriving with the usual candy and cookies, start a new tradition of arriving with festive fruit. The pomegranate is a symbol for the season and could be a unique surprise. Contributing healthy choices to the array of holiday foods is a good way to keep your overall health, and your dental and vision health, in mind during a season when those priorities might be pushed aside.

Toothbrush in the stocking

Need a stocking stuffer? Toothbrushes will fit in the stockings perfectly. There are fun options available for the kids. And a toothbrush in the stocking will be a good reminder to brush since kids are eating lots of sweets during the holiday. There’s room for floss in there, too.

Holiday sing-a-long while you brush

Already in the holiday spirit? Are you already listening to and singing along to your favorite festive tunes? Great! Now keep doing that while you’re brushing your teeth. Jingle Bells is a great choice to cover the two minutes of brushing you do twice a day. It works as a great reminder for the kids.

Donations

If you’re getting together donations, think about dental and vision health contributions. Consider donating dental health necessities like toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash and floss to your preferred charity. Also consider the gift of vision this year. You can donate your old eyeglasses, reading glasses, frames, and sunglasses or donate to a charity that provides vision care to communities in need.

We love the idea of giving the gift of dental and vision health this season, whether it’s through donations or starting new gift traditions. We wish you happy holidays and bright and healthy smiles in the New Year!

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5 ways to keep your smile healthy this holiday season

Your December calendar is filling up quickly with work celebrations, school concerts, and family and friend gatherings. Despite your busy schedule this time of year, don’t let the season put the health of your smile in jeopardy. I’m going to enjoy the tradition of holiday cookies, and I want you all to enjoy too! Let’s just make sure we don’t skip our twice daily brushing during the frenzy and flurry. Here’s five ways to keep your oral health safe through this sugar-filled season.

When you’re indulging in sweets, enjoy with a meal

When indulging in the holiday cookies and candy, enjoy them with a meal. Choose not to make the sweet treat a stand-alone snack. If you eat with other foods, the foods will stimulate saliva, which will help to wash the harmful sugars away from your teeth and gums.

Drink water after eating candy and cookies

If you’re eating holiday sweets, drink more water. Drinking water will wash away the leftover food in your teeth and mouth. Also, do your best to avoid sugary beverages.

Don’t let your good habits hibernate

It’s the holidays, and it’s fun to celebrate with special foods and treats. Now counterbalance that by keeping up your usual good oral health habits like brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing daily. It doesn’t hurt to throw in an additional brushing a day with the extra intake of sugar. And even when the holidays are over, and you want to hide away from the cold, don’t let the inactivity mean laziness when taking care of your teeth.

Be prepared with a toothbrush and floss

Since you’re keeping up those good oral health habits, remember to pack your toothbrush and toothpaste when you’re traveling to see family and friends over the holidays. Even though you aren’t in your daily routine at home, keep up the daily habits of brushing and flossing, no matter where you are during the holidays.

Try to limit the snacks

Overall, though there will be lots of temptations put out at work, during your visiting, and all the other special places you may go. Try to stay away from the between-meal snacks like pretzels and crackers. Though the sugar-filled food like cake and cookies are highlighted during the season, snacks like chips and pretzels still contain sugar and starch that can stick to your teeth. Instead reach for the other snack options like carrots, celery, nuts and cheese. Fresh veggies and these other options are a better choice for your smile.

With a few extra precautions this holiday season, you’ll keep your smile healthy and bright for the new year.

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6 Vision Health Reminders for the Winter

As the winter season sets in, here are six reminders about vision health that relate to this time of year.

1 – Make appointments

Check your vision benefits plan and see if your benefits expire at the end of the year. If you’ve already used your benefits this year, look to next year and schedule your family’s eye exams. Remember even if you have good vision, it’s important to have regular comprehensive eye exams. Exams can check for signs of common eye diseases and detect other health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure.

2 – Eat healthy

It can be tough to eat healthy around the holidays. The colder weather can also keep us indoors and inactive. But keep up your smart choices of leafy green and colorful vegetables like spinach and sweet potatoes. Keep your vision health, and overall health, in mind when you’re shopping at the food store or being tempted by all the holiday treats.

3 – Drink water

Sometimes in the colder months, we forget about staying hydrated. We know the importance of staying hydrated for your overall health, but it’s also directly linked to your eye health too. Dehydration can cause eye strain and dry eye.

4 – Quit smoking

According to an article on AllAboutVision.com, people who smoke are “four times more likely to go blind in old age.” We know the harmful effects of smoking on our health, but our vision might not always be considered. Your risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration also increases if you smoke. You might find the New Year is a good time to start healthy habits, or quit unhealthy ones.

5 – Wear sunglasses

Wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays is important in the winter months. We might not think of it because of the colder temperatures, but the sun’s rays can still damage your eyes in the winter.

6 – Give the gift of vision

The holiday season is synonymous with donation giving, so consider the gift of vision this year. You can donate your old eyeglasses, reading glasses, frames, and sunglasses or donate to a charity that provides vision care to underserved communities and people in need.

The winter season doesn’t have to be cold and dark. Instead make it about giving back to the community, continuing healthy choices, and protecting your vision.

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Did you visit your dentist and eye doctor this year?

Even though this time of year might be busy with holiday plans, make some time to see your dentist and vision care provider. Most dental plans have the benefit deadline of December 31, so be sure to fit in your regular exams and cleanings before the end of the year. Benefit plans differ, so read your plan documents first.

As you look over your dental benefit plan offerings, check to see if you’ve reached your deductible and find out what your annual maximum is. This will help determine which benefits you want to use before the end of the year. As a reminder, your deductible is the amount you have to pay before your benefit plan begins to pay the cost of your treatment. Your annual maximum is the maximum dollar amount a dental plan will pay for care within a benefit period.

For your vision coverage, check your benefit plan offerings for copays, allowances and exam and material frequencies. All plans are different, so check your plan effective date.

It’s about preventive care

Oral health and dental benefits are all about preventive care. That’s why we want you to get to the dentist! Dental benefits work to stop problems before they begin. If you put in the time for preventive care, like visiting your dentist routinely, that can help avoid bigger and more costly problems in the future, like cavities or gum disease.

Vision benefits are similar to dental benefits because they focus on preventive care too. These are benefits you want to use. And just like oral health is an important part of your overall health, your vision health is also connected to your overall health. Make your last dental appointment of the year and fit in your regular comprehensive eye exam with your vision care provider. Remember, even if you have good vision, it’s important to have regular comprehensive eye exams. Exams can check for signs of common eye diseases and detect other health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure.

If you have any questions about your benefits plan, you can sign in to your account or contact us.

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Thanksgiving Foods for Your Oral and Vision Health

As you gather around the table this Thanksgiving and you look at all the delicious food, some of those dishes might be good for your oral and vision health. Here are some Thanksgiving sides that have the added bonus of being good for your teeth, gums and eyes. And if these vegetables aren’t usually included with your holiday meal, consider adding them for the benefit of all those smiles gathered around your table.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, and this vitamin protects the surface of your eyes and helps maintain your teeth and bones. Sweet potatoes have vitamin C and vitamin E too. Vitamin C, evidence suggests, lowers the risk of cataracts. For your oral health, vitamin C strengthens gums, protects against gingivitis, and fights infection. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that fights inflammation, protects cells in the eyes from damage and can fight against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Two helpings of sweet potatoes, please!

Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach

Look around for the greens on the table because you know those are great choices. Brussels sprouts are in season – a good reason for them to show up on the Thanksgiving table! Like other leafy green vegetables, brussels sprouts are full of calcium. Calcium is famous for strengthening your bones and teeth, while it also strengthens your enamel. Vitamin C, good for your gums, is also in brussels sprouts, broccoli and spinach.

Vitamin C supports vision health in many ways like slowing the progression of AMD and supporting blood vessels in the eye. Broccoli and spinach are an excellent source of vitamin A too. I mean, you really can’t go wrong with the green veggies – so good for your overall health.

Carrots and celery

While you’re all waiting for the turkey to cook, put out some snacks like raw carrots and celery. Because they’re so crunchy, they increase saliva production and reduce the risk of cavities. Also, carrots have vitamin A and other nutrients like lutein and beta-carotene, both known to promote eye health.

Celery is a good source of vitamins A and C. Added bonus of celery – it works as a natural toothbrush! When you bite down on celery, its texture scrubs the surface of your teeth, brushing away food particles and plaque. So keep these snacks around for after dinner too.

Butternut squash

Let me add one more because it’s one of my Thanksgiving favorites! Butternut squash is in season and is filled with nutrients, like powerful vitamin A. One cup of cooked butternut squash has over 300% of the recommended daily allowance. On the long list of its nutrients is vitamin C, another vitamin for oral and vision health we’ve been discussing.

Choose wisely

While some of these vegetables might get covered up in some unhealthy choices like gravy and butter, consider having different versions available. Baked sweet potatoes instead of mashed with butter and cream. Steamed spinach and broccoli instead of in a casserole.

And if you’re still into the pumpkin craze, and a pumpkin pie might be included in your traditional fare, pumpkin also has oral and vision health benefits. Keep in mind your ingredients and read the labels on the store-bought items.

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Diabetes and Your Oral Health

November is Diabetes Awareness Month to bring attention to the disease and the millions of people affected by it. We’d like to join this effort from the perspective of your oral health.

There is a connection between oral health and overall health. And that connection can work both ways. A person with diabetes is an example of this connection. If you have diabetes, you’re at a higher risk of developing gum disease. And, according to the American Diabetes Association, research suggests “serious gum disease may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes.”

What’s the connection?

To be clear, diabetes doesn’t cause gum disease and gum disease doesn’t cause diabetes. But if you have one, you are likely to have the other, in comparison to others who don’t have diabetes or gum disease. To explain a bit further, if you have diabetes, your ability to fight infection is reduced. Gum disease is a type of infection in your gums and the surrounding bones supporting your teeth.

Gum disease is also referred to as periodontal disease. Early gum disease, called gingivitis, has symptoms like red, swollen and bleeding gums. In the early stages, gingivitis can be reversible with daily brushing, flossing and regular visits to the dentist. When the condition reaches the later stage, called periodontitis, your gums are seriously damaged.

Talk With Your Dentist

To prevent gum disease, practice good oral health care. If you have diabetes, since you’re at higher risk of developing gum disease, paying close attention to your teeth and mouth and maintaining a good oral health care routine is extremely important. Managing your diabetes will also help. According to studies, people who manage their diabetes tend to have less gum disease than people who are not managing their disease well. Talk with your dentist to discuss a plan going forward.

You can learn more about the symptoms diabetes can create in your mouth by visiting the American Dental Association website. Learn more about diabetes and Diabetes Awareness Month by visiting the American Diabetes Association website.

More Info

Read more, in a previous post, about how diabetes can also lead to vision problems and how a comprehensive eye exam can detect diabetes in its early stages.

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Your Tongue Can be an Indicator of Your Oral Health

Even though you focus on keeping your teeth and gums tongue-blog_450309495_w-400healthy, oral health includes another part of your mouth – your tongue. And your tongue can be an indicator of your oral and overall health.

Maybe you don’t pay too much attention to your tongue until you bite it or burn it by accident. Ouch! And we’ve mentioned including your tongue when you brush twice a day for at least two minutes. But other than that, this very important part of your mouth might not get noticed or discussed.

Here is some information about the color, texture and patterns on your tongue that might indicate something about your oral and overall health.

White coating – If you have dry mouth or bad oral hygiene, your tongue may appear white. The white color is the result of papillae, the tiny bumps on the surface of your tongue, becoming overgrown with a buildup of bacteria and debris from food.

Black or brown – If you smoke, your tongue could turn a black or brown tint if the overgrown papillae get stained. They could also become stained by food, drinks or medications. This dark discoloration condition even has a name – black hairy tongue. (Terrible, I know!) This condition can also be a result of poor oral hygiene, dry mouth or use of certain medications. But it can go away with good oral hygiene and by getting rid of any of the causes like tobacco use.

White patches on your tongue can be attributed to the overgrowth of yeast in your mouth, a condition called “thrush” or “candidiasis.” Those most prone to this condition include newborns, pregnant women, elderly people, dry mouth sufferers, people who wear dentures, individuals on antibiotics, people with weak immune systems and those with certain health conditions like diabetes. The usual treatment is anti-fungal medication.

White lacy pattern – If you see this pattern on your tongue or inner cheeks, it may be a sign of something called oral lichen planus. This means your immune system is fighting the cells in your mouth. You may also see sore red patches.

Yellow – A yellow tongue can be the early stages of the previously explained black or brown tongue. It could also indicate acid reflux or an infection.

Pale and smooth – If your tongue is pale, you could have low iron, or a condition called anemia.

“Strawberry” patterned – It’s called this because of the color and bumps on your tongue kind of look like a strawberry. If you notice your tongue is bumpy or swollen, it may be a sign of strep throat or an allergy, possibly to food or medicine you’re taking. There’s also a blood vessel disease called Kawasaki disease that the strawberry pattern could also be a sign of.

Next time you’re brushing your teeth, take a look at your tongue in the mirror. How does it look?

Most of these conditions can be fixed by practicing good oral hygiene, eating healthy foods, drinking more water or quitting any tobacco use. But sometimes the color of your tongue could indicate something more serious, like oral cancer or infections. Contact your dental care provider or physician if you notice one of the above colors or conditions and it doesn’t go away after a week or two. If you experience any soreness or pain, be sure to contact your dentist or doctor. A professional will be able to identify and diagnose any problems.

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