Great Smiles NJ - June 2022

JUNE 2022



A few weeks ago, I heard some amazing news from my friend and patient, Dr. Rodger Gwiazdowski: Photographs of the endangered insects he studies will be part of an exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City! When Rodger told me the news, he said, “Michelle, just so you know, I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of the conservation work I do without the good dental care you’ve provided.” At first I was sure Rodger was exaggerating. It was such a sweet thing to say, but really? My work on his teeth helped him study insects? Then, he explained his thought process. For years, Rodger was in pain and embarrassed about his teeth. He put off preventive dental care because he couldn’t afford it. He also had anxiety about the dentist. Fortunately, I'm an old friend, and he knows how knowledgeable and experienced I am, so he trusted me to take care of him. Over the years, he’s traveled all the way from Massachusetts and even Canada to see me! “I implicitly trust you in my mouth, and so any of the anxiety that comes with generally going to the dentist — asking questions like 'Will this hurt? How will this work? What will be the follow-up consequences of the actions this person takes?' — I never think about that with you,” he told me, adding, “Without you, I wouldn't have teeth!” Because Rodger wasn’t in pain or worrying about his teeth, he could focus on what he really loves: working with people to study different species of tiger beetles and help their populations recover. Pretty cool, right? Rodger runs an insect conservation research and planning company called Advanced BioConsulting, and he works in a custom built lab to breed tiger beetles and reintroduce them to the wild. The New York Times wrote an article on his work in 2018, and now the American Museum of Natural History is sharing it as part of their “Extinct and Endangered Insects” exhibit. “There’s a lot of decline in biodiversity globally. It’s not a trivial issue in the human experience anymore, and insects often get overlooked,” Rodger says.

Photo credit: Sloan Tomlinson

The exhibit opens on Wednesday, June 22, and will feature huge insect photographs by the insect photographer Levon Biss. The way Rodger describes it, the photos will turn the tables and make us feel tiny. “Most of the photos are 3–5 feet tall or more, and the Puritan tiger beetle is supposed to be 8 feet tall. I don't know how to comprehend that until I’m in front of it!” Rodger says. Rodger’s passion for tiger beetles started in 1999 when he did a senior class project on them for a conservation biology class, and he has loved them ever since. Here are just a few of the fun tiger beetle facts Rodger has learned since then: • Tiger beetles live on every continent except Antarctica. • 20 species of tiger beetles live in New Jersey, including several that are endangered. • Tiger beetles are one of the top predators in their habitat — they’re vicious! • Tiger beetles run at their prey so fast that they actually go blind for a second. If you and your family enjoy insects, science, and cool facts, I hope you’ll check out the “Extinct and Endangered Insects” exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History this month. You can also find a companion book with the same name on Amazon, and there’s a video with Rodger coming soon on the Museum’s website ( endangered-insects ). At the exhibit opening, you can meet Rodger, and if you’re lucky, he’ll show off the dental work I did for him!

To your great smiles and better health,

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EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED How Your Oral and Mental Health Link Together

Our bodies are made up of many systems working together to keep us functional and healthy. It’s so complex that even scientists don’t understand how all of it works. But we do know that our health is a whole-body experience, and ignoring one aspect of our wellness will often lead to other problems down the line. Oral health is no exception. For example, poor dental health can contribute to cardiovascular disease, and diabetes can lead to gum disease. Still, most people don’t know that their oral and mental health are linked. Researchers have found that people who suffer from mental illnesses are more likely to develop oral health problems like tooth decay and gum disease. In fact, experts have identified several reasons for the apparent connection. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 280 million people across the globe are affected by depression. That’s about 5% of the adult population. Depression is more than just sadness, and it impacts people’s ability to think clearly and engage in regular activities. Oral care routines often fall by the wayside as a result, along with dental visits. This neglect of regular mouth maintenance can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Meanwhile, anxiety can make social interactions terrifying, and sufferers may have difficulty scheduling and attending dental appointments. Additionally, many people have a phobia of dentists that causes them to postpone care. Due to this anxiety or fear, oral health issues can go untreated and significantly worsen.

There are still more connections. People with eating disorders may experience dental erosion or low calcium levels that affect their teeth. Pain is a risk factor for depression, so existing oral pain can spark or worsen mental health problems. And while more research is needed, a 2019 study found a possible genetic link between depression and oral health conditions. If you’re struggling, you need to protect your mental and physical health. Talk to your doctor about what you’ve been experiencing, and be open to their recommendations. Treating your mind well will lead to better health and perhaps a happier and longer life. In addition to this, don’t forget to include your dentist in your plans for full-body health. They’re not trained mental health professionals, but they can provide helpful strategies to help you maintain your dental health while seeking treatment for your mental health as well. Be sure to tell your dentist about any medication you’re taking. Side effects from antidepressants can include dry mouth or teeth grinding, and your dentist can help you minimize the damage. Whatever you’re going through, it’s crucial to keep your entire health team engaged. Physicians, dentists, and therapists all have specialized roles, but outcomes are better when each specialty has the complete picture and can work together. Keep the lines of communication open — and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.


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How to Beat Your Afternoon Slump

We all know the feeling: Sometime after lunch, you become sluggish, spacy, and unproductive. Many of us instinctively turn to caffeine to power through the rest of the day, but that can cause another crash, not to mention sleep problems. But don’t worry — you aren’t doomed to an aimless afternoon. We’ve compiled expert tips to perk up and carry on with your busy day. Plan your work. All of our bodies have internal rhythms, and by now, you probably know yours. Typically, people peak mid-morning or in the late afternoon. But whenever your productive heights are, plan around them. Complete the detailed, creative, or difficult work during the times when your energy is at its best, and save your “busy work” or repetitive tasks for the lulls when you feel less motivated. You’ll feel better and get more done. Consume healthy foods and lots of water. Maybe you don’t have complete control of your schedule. That's where a healthy snack comes in. We tend to crash in the afternoon when our blood sugar drops, usually due to consuming carbohydrates. Eating vegetables, fruit, and protein or fiber- rich foods will help pick up your energy without incurring a future dip. While you're snacking, drink some water. A 2018 study out of Yale found that even mild dehydration can negatively affect our brains’ ability to function, so don’t let your water bottle sit untouched.

Get up and move. You’re not going to get over that slump by sitting in your chair. If you want to beat back fatigue, go for a walk, climb some stairs, stretch, or do some jumping jacks. Researchers have proven that exercise wakes up both your body and your mind. In fact, science says it will do a better job of rousing you than caffeine will. Best of all, it will help, not hurt, your ability to sleep at night. Finally, set yourself up for success by going to bed at a reasonable hour and getting your necessary 7–9 hours of sleep. Our attention ebbs and flows naturally, so none of us can be our best 100% of the time. But along with these other tips, staying well-rested can help you pick up the pace.

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Chicken Skewers


Inspired by



FOR THE MARINADE • 1 tbsp olive oil • 2 tbsp soy sauce • 2 tbsp chili garlic sauce • 2 tbsp rice vinegar • 3 tbsp honey • Juice of 1 lime • 3/4 tsp smoked paprika • 1/2 tsp salt FOR THE SKEWERS • 2 lbs chicken breast, cut into bite-size cubes • 1 small pineapple, cut into 1-inch cubes

1. In a bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients. 2. In a reusable freezer bag, combine cubed chicken and all but 1/4 cup of the marinade. 3. Seal bag and massage marinade into the chicken. Chill in the fridge overnight. 4. The following day, preheat the grill to 400 F. Thread chicken and pineapple onto skewers, adding two cubes of chicken for each cube of pineapple. 5. Grill the skewers for 3–4 minutes per side, brushing with the reserved marinade in the final minutes. 6. Serve over rice or with your favorite barbecue sides!

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10 Shawnee Drive Watchung, NJ 07069

1 Dental Work Makes Insect Study Possible INSIDE THIS ISSUE 2 Your Mental Health Can Affect Your Mouth 3 Beating the Midday Slump Sweet and Spicy BBQ Chicken Skewers 4 Tips to Break Your Kids’ Phone Habits

Breaking the Habit How to Cut Your Kids’ Screen Time

The science is clear: Too much screen time can lead to kids experiencing developmental delays, poor sleep, and weight gain. And yet, kids love those small glowing devices. To keep your children healthy, you need to find a way to set limits. But how can you create rules around their favorite pastimes without causing a lot of drama? Create realistic rules. You know your family best. Review the American Academy of Pediatrics’ best practices for screen time online, and then consider what’s both healthy and doable. Maybe the ultimate screen time spent will be more than the experts suggest, but an improvement is better than no change. Determine usage limits and establish device-free times. Then create clear expectations and consequences, and don’t back down from enforcing them. Take the devices away. It is not a punishment, though it might feel like one to your kids at first. But it’s actually helping them by removing the temptation. Your elementary school child will be less likely to get sucked into a YouTube hole, and your teen won’t send “just one” text at dinner if the device isn’t right there. Keep these devices out of

sight during no-use time, and put them away once your kids have met their daily limits. In the end, it will make things easier. Spend More Time Together. Giving your children your undivided attention is incredibly valuable, even if it’s

only for short periods. Figure out how you can create more face time (not FaceTime). Start conversations and play games to spend time together as a family. Even better, get outside! If you’re willing to spend time with them and act a little silly, your kids will

have more fun kicking a ball around rather than playing Roblox. Better yet, you’ll both get some exercise.

Finally, consider the example you’re setting. It’s hard to blame kids for their screen addiction when adults also have trouble prying themselves away from laptops, tablets, and phones. Think about how you can reduce your

own screen time and consider installing an app that tracks your usage like StayFree or Social Fever. You might be surprised at how much time you spend staring at a little screen — and be inspired to cut back.


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