Are Vitamins Good for Childrens’ Teeth?

February 22, 2017

Are Chidrens’ vitamins good for their teeth?

At UCLA Dental school In 1976 my out of shape British human physiology MD/professor’s famous comment on nutrition and vitamins was “When I feel like I need some vitamins I put a piece of lettuce on my wimpy(hamburger) once a week” He was also the teacher for the medical students and that may explain why it has taken traditional medicine so long to recognize the importance of nutrition. Today the pendulum has swung the other way with supplements being pushed like candy to a baby especially vitamins for children. In fact gummy vitamins are just like candy causing the same problems for childrens’ teeth. I believe a balanced diet and nutrition are important, my problem is that I have seen vitamin supplements damage young childrens’ teeth.

Gummy Bears

The myth of childrens’ vitamins


Yummy gummy vitamins, what a great way to get kids their required nutrients. Right? Unfortunately we have seen numerous young children who develop cavaties after their well meaning parents begin them on a regimen of gummy vitamins. Gummy vitamins in large part are just chewy candy with a healthy sounding name. Grab a bag of gummy bears and a bottle of gummy vitamins. Start reading the ingredients: sugar, gum, colors, vitamin c. Similar name and similar ingredients. Similar result: cavaties.

What is in gummy vitamins?

Gummy Vitamins


Two grams of carbohydrate, a complex sugar, one gram of simple sugar, Ascorbic acid(vitamin C), folic acid, pantothenic acid. Now all these acids may be good for us when we eat them with food but when they are stuck in the grooves of developing teeth by the gum sorbate they cause trouble. As an example:

Vitamin c is good for you contributing to all sorts of bodily functions: connective tissue repair, immune response etc. but when chewed into the grooves of teeth it causes problems. The formal scientific name for vitamin c is ascorbic acid. Its this acid property that causes the problem especially when it sticks in the groove of developing teeth. Teeth are actually softer, and easier to melt when they first erupt in the mouth so children are the most effected. Would you knowingly pack sticky acid into teeth given that we all know that acid created by bacteria is damaging to teeth? The word acid attached to a substance is just a description of a property. In large part all these acids share properties destructive to teeth; they dissolve enamel.

Are Chewable vitamins an alternative?

Chewable vitamins are not like gummy bears they are like sweet tarts, sweet from sugar and tart from the taste of acid. Instead of being sticky the sugar and acid are simply stuck/cemented and packed into the grooves of the teeth. Simply chew one yourself and then spend the next 10 minutes trying to get the stuff out of the grooves of your back teeth. Not what you want

The solution

Vitamin makers are trying to address these problems with artificial sweeteners( who knows what problems they can cause) but we are still left with acids that are vitamins stuck in the teeth. My suggestion is to have your children eat a balanced diet with maybe more than just a piece of lettuce on their “wimpy” once a week.





Toothbrushes in Costa Rica

February 3, 2017

Many of you know of our families passion for southern Costa Rica, it’s not just because I am a goofy foot and the area we visit has one of the best left hand wave point breaks in the world. We fell in love the Costa Rican people, their happy, non confrontational spirit exemplified by their common greeting “Pura Vida”(pure life). The simple lives we encountered when we first traveled there taught us all about how few material possessions you need to be happy. They were always appreciative of even just a tooth brush. We have been visiting the schools for over 22 years now and have distributed over 18000 toothbrushes, most donated by the Butler Sunstar company. A special thanks to Aurora Cote, our Butler rep, David Mclaren, and Kathy Allen, V.P Sales for working hard to provide us with the necessary toothbrushes. So many of the villagers asked if I could help them with their dental needs that my dream was to set up a dental clinic in one of the villages so that I could donate my time. I did carry down equipment so that I could refurbish an abandoned clinic but as with most projects requiring government approval acquiring the permission to donate my work was a cluster of insurmountable hurdles. The clinic does get used by the public service dentists from Costa Rica and occasional foreign dental groups who have government permission.

kidergarden with toothbrushes

In addition we have brought pencils, pens,soccer balls, books, computers, clothes, and fishing equipment. Recently Dr Scott Paul, a great periodontist and avid fisherman donated spools of fishing line and lures. The economy on the village has been struggling because of a significant drought so many of the families have struggled to keep food on the table. Debi and I were on the beach watching as Miguel one of the young men who we gave some of Dr. Paul”s equipment to made his first cast. Within seconds his screams could be heard from a quarter mile away as he hauled in a 15 lb red snapper. He came running up the beach to show us his catch with Dr. Paul’s lure still in its mouth. He showed it off to all his friends, cast out again and promptly caught another smaller snapper. He was ecstatic knowing his family would be eating well. I just wish I had a photo of his smile.

school children waiting for toothbrushes

Usually we go to the schools as Bell Family Dentistry; Brandon, his wife Kristina, my wife Debi and I. Given Kristina’s pregnancy and the Ciska virus threat they stayed home this year. Debi and I went to one of the schools and by coincidence a “health fair” for the elders of the village was taking place next door. Most of these amazing elders are over eighty years old, proud and independent still working and in living in their shacks. One of my favorites was there; Sebastian, an 86 year old who I see almost every day on my way to surf. I give him t shirts but he is too proud to accept charity so he insists that he give me something in trade, usually bags of limes. How he is able to pick/collect so many limes is a mystery to me. He has a few teeth and his upper denture falls out whenever he smiles and he is always smiling. He is always thankful for a toothbrush. When he saw me he ran up to me and pumped my hand and introduced me like we were best friends. I made sure all the elders got toothbrushes too.

seniors getting toothbrushes

In this remote and some would say primitive area the older people have a civility and politeness you don’t see in our rushed society. They treat each other with respect. You acknowledge everyone you pass whether you know them of not if, whether you are in your car on horseback or just walking. If you know them you stop, shake hands with the men, kiss the women on the cheek and exchange pleasantries. One of the benefits of taking our children to Costa Rica was that they returned from this “ poor backward” community with better manners. I know I may seem old fashioned but manners matter to me. When you are introduced to someone you shouldn’t just sit on your couch, with your hat on backwards and grunt “hey dude” not even looking up while playing on your cell phone. Someday I will write about the effect technology has had on the Costa Rican people but for now rest assured the modern transition to impolite indifference is not an American anomaly as the electronic devices takeover communication.

These white faced monkeys were not polite and looking for a banana handout, not a toothbrush.

monkeys looking for a toothbrush

Thoughts on Becoming a Grandfather

October 25, 2016

Thoughts on becoming a grandfather

It is hard to live life without making mistakes and having regrets. Each stage brings new challenges and opportunities, and sometimes even a second chance, a do over, or for all you golfers a mulligan. I regret never learning to understand or enjoy little babies. Now I am a grandfather bringing with it joy and the opportunity for one of those second chances. Every patient who is a grandparent extolls the joys of grand parenting: spoiling and enjoying the grand children and then returning them without worrying that someone will reject your return for the destruction you have caused. Kind of like shopping at Costco. I have never been good with babies even my own. I was afraid, concerned, even scared. Crying, fragile, little bobble head dolls, their heads seem to keep wanting to fall off. What do they want ? Why do they cry? What will make them happy? Why don’t they just tell me? Babies of course can sense this angst, especially your own children making them even more unhappy. I am a problem solver and sadly it was a problem I could not solve. Of course I could always use the excuse that I had to work to support our family but it was just an excuse to mask my shortcoming. My saving grace was that I worked very hard at being a good father once our children were older and we could communicate. My other saving grace was that Debi was an incredible mother, calm, peaceful and intuitive to the childrens’ wants and needs. I was reminded of this the other day when my son, Brandon commented how awesome his mother was calming and helping during a difficult night with the baby. You could hear in his voice a new appreciation for how hard it is to be a parent and how thankful he was for his mother. Having never known my own grandfathers, both died young, I have no real role model to learn from but I get a second chance. I am sure my son,who is great with his new daughter and my granddaughter, Gwyneth can teach me how to be a good grandfather and better enjoy babies.


Dr Bell dentist and grand daughter

Gwyneth, Grandpa and The Little Prince

This is a photo of the first time I held Gwyneth. I had to get a whooping cough vaccination before I could get close….What a world. I am reading her one of my favorite books, the Little Prince, the allegorical children’s book that explains all the lessons in life you need to be happy. She listened for a while and then fell in to a peaceful sleep for three hours. I didn’t want to move for fear of disturbing her and breaking the peaceful, magical spell. I think it is the longest I have been still in my whole life. My arms went to sleep. After three hours Kristina, her mom came and said we needed to wake her to feed her or something. I asked why. She said the pediatrician told them it would help to get her on a routine. Oh youth, they have not figured out yet that life will never be routine again. It sounded like the advice of young med school graduate who had read a lot of books but never had children of their own. Having watched lots of parents who are good with babies I have come to the conclusion that the number one rule is: Never wake a sleeping baby. And the number two rule is: Never wake a sleeping baby. Rule number three is: never argue with a new mother, so off Gwyneth went. No matter, the spell was broken, my arms came back to life and I went back to my normal routine life fixing dental equipment at the office on the weekends. It was still a day made special by those magic, peaceful moments that I will never forget.


P.S. Her head did not even fall off.