You hear it time and time again – from your pediatrician, the famous Mary Schmich, articles on the Internet, and yes, even from your pediatric dentist in Olathe – wear sunscreen. This advice applies to both kids and adults, and it’s especially appropriate during National Sunscreen Day, celebrated every year on May 27th.
The Importance of Sun Protection
We know it may seem odd to be taking sun-protection advice from a dentist, but trust us, we have a point. But first, let’s get down to the basics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 4.3 million people will be treated for two of the most common types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma – every year. These types of skin cancers, among others, are caused by too much exposure to UV (ultraviolet) light, such as those emitted by the sun and tanning beds. This makes the usage of sunscreen incredibly important, and not just for those soaking up the sun in tanning beds or laying out getting a tan. In fact, everyone is susceptible to skin cancer, including kids. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using SPF 15 daily, even in kids older than six months and those who don’t spend a lot of time outside, to reduce the risk of melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
How Does The Sun Affect Teeth?
The truth is, the sun can be both beneficial and detrimental to teeth. First up are the benefits.
Oral Health Benefits of The Sun
Regular exposure to the sun will help the body produce an essential vitamin called vitamin D. Vitamin D is a necessary part of maintaining good oral health. But at the same time, you’ll hear your pediatric dentist in Olathe put a lot of emphasis on getting enough calcium to support strong teeth and bones. While that’s true, the body also needs the help of vitamin D to properly absorb calcium. In this sense, regular sun exposure could be good for oral and overall health. Afterall, if kids don’t get enough vitamin D, which may be called a vitamin D deficiency, the teeth will not be able to absorb enough calcium. This could increase the risk of cavities as well as gum disease.
Negative Oral Health Side Effects of Too Much Sun
We all know that the skin can burn quite easily if exposed to too much sun. This can also increase the risk of developing skin cancer later in life. However, oral health can also be affected by getting too much sun. When many people think of oral health, they immediately think of the teeth. And while it’s highly unlikely to get sunburn in the teeth, it’s still possible. But what’s more concerning, and way more likely, is getting a sunburn on the lips. This often-forgotten body part can be damaged by too much sun and can be the originating spot of skin cancer. When you’re applying sunscreen to your child, don’t forget the lips. Use a product designed to protect lips from harmful UV rays with at least an SPF 15.
As we enter these warmer summer days, we encourage you to get your kids outside to play. But make sure to use sun protection on all parts of their bodies, including the lips. And as always, don’t let summer nights take away from a good oral hygiene routine. It’s still important to brush and floss every day and see your pediatric dentist in Olathe twice a year. Perhaps summer break is the perfect time to schedule an appointment. Call us today!
LeBlanc & Associates Dentistry For Children has new patient appointments available now at all our pediatric dental offices in Overland Park, Prairie Village, Olathe, and Kansas City.