Monthly Archives: October 2015

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Dentists drill down on trick-or-treating

By Susan Risoli

Everyone knows that Halloween treats are bad for children’s teeth. Or is that just a myth, perpetrated by parents who want to pilfer their kids’ candy stash?

With their mouths full of restorations, adults are the ones more likely than kids to experience post-Halloween dental problems, said Dr. Robert Branca D.D.S. It’s not unusual for adults to make an appointment at Sweetwater Dental Care in Hauppauge, where Branca practices, to take care of a cracked tooth, a lost crown or a missing filling caused by biting into hard or sticky candy. As far as kids go, Branca said, Halloween doesn’t so much affect the ongoing issue of tooth decay as much as the child’s genetic makeup and the texture of their teeth — smooth or pitted. To prevent cavities, he recommends that children get fluoride treatments and have their teeth sealed.

Energy drinks and soda are way worse for a young person’s teeth than once-a-year consumption of Halloween candy, Branca said.

“We see a big difference in tooth decay of young adults in their 20s,” since energy drinks became popular, he said, because the drinks are “very high in sugar, very high in acid. Those things are really bad for your teeth.”

If the child has braces, their parents can remind them to choose and eat their Halloween candy carefully. “Sticky things could be a problem,” he said.

When it came to raising his own kids, Dr. Branca said he practiced the “all things in moderation” approach. “I wasn’t going to take Halloween away from them. Let them have their fun,” he said. “But I wasn’t going to let them have candy every day, either.”

Young trick-or-treaters have healthier teeth than adults, said Dr. Roger Kleinman, D.D.S., so a little Halloween indulgence shouldn’t be bad for their dental health.

“Up until age 14 or 15, children tend to still have strong teeth,” he said. “Some of their adult teeth didn’t come in until they were 12. There hasn’t been a chance yet for adult decay to set in.” At the Gentle Dental office in Port Jefferson, he has treated his share of dental trauma caused by adults biting into candy — “broken teeth from a frozen caramel cluster, for example.” Dr. Kleinman recommends parents follow the usual advice about letting their kids eat only wrapped candies.

“And after they eat the candy they’re allowed to have, I would recommend that they go brush their teeth,” he advised.

Dr. Aimee Zopf, D.M.D., also a practitioner at Gentle Dental, isn’t likely to condemn Halloween. “That’s my birthday,” she said.

For the rest of us trick-or-treaters, as long as proper dental hygiene is practiced on a consistent, daily basis, Halloween shouldn’t pose a problem, she said. Eating candy won’t necessarily cause tooth decay “as long as you’re brushing and flossing and seeing your dentist every six months, or more frequently if needed,” Dr. Zopf said. She also reminded parents to check their kids’ Halloween candy not only to make sure it’s safely wrapped, but also to check that it doesn’t trigger any allergies the child might have.

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When we were younger, falls usually did not result in significant consequences. However, when we reach middle age and chronic diseases become more prevalent, falls become more substantial. And, unfortunately, falls are a serious concern for older patients, where consequences can be devastating. They can include brain injuries, hip fractures, a decrease in functional ability and a decline in physical and social activities.(1) Ultimately, falls can lead to loss of independence.(2)

Of those over the age of 65, between 30 and 40 percent will fall annually.(3) Most of the injuries that involve emergency room visits are due to falls in this older demographic.(4)

What can increase the risk of falls?

A multitude of factors contribute to fall risk. A personal history of falling in the recent past is the most prevalent. But there are many other significant factors, such as age; being female; and using drugs, like antihypertensive medications used to treat high blood pressure and psychotropic medications used to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia. Chronic diseases, including arthritis, as an umbrella term; a history of stroke; cognitive impairment and Parkinson’s disease can also contribute. Circumstances that predispose us to falls also involve weakness in upper and lower body strength, decreased vision, hearing disorders and psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression.(5)

How do we prevent falls?

Fortunately, there are ways to modify many risk factors and ultimately reduce the risk of falls. Of the utmost importance is exercise. But what do we mean by “exercise?” Exercises involving balance, strength, movement, flexibility and endurance, whether home-based or in groups, all play significant roles in fall prevention.(6) We will go into more detail below.

Many of us in the northeast suffer from low vitamin D, which strengthens muscle and bone. This is an easy fix with supplementation. Footwear also needs to be addressed. Non-slip shoes, if last winter is any indication, are of the utmost concern. Inexpensive changes in the home can also make a big difference.

Medications that exacerbate fall risk

There are a number of medications that may heighten fall risk. As I mentioned, psychotropic drugs top the list. Ironically, they also top the list of the best-selling drugs. But what other drugs might have an impact?

High blood pressure medications have recently been investigated. A recent propensity-matched sample study (a notch below an randomized control trial in terms of quality) showed an increase in fall risk in those who were taking high blood pressure medication.(7) Surprisingly, those who were on moderate doses of blood pressure medication had the greatest risk of serious injuries from falls, a 40 percent increase. One would have expected those on the highest levels of BP medication to have the greatest increase in risk, but this was not the case.

While blood pressure medications may contribute to fall risk, they have significant benefits in reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease and events. Thus, we need to weigh the risk-benefit ratio, specifically in older patients, before considering stopping a medication. When it comes to treating high blood pressure, lifestyle modifications may also play a significant role in treating this disease.(8)

Where does arthritis fit into this paradigm?

In those with arthritis, compared to those without, there is an approximately two-times increased risk of two or more falls and, additionally, a two-times increased risk of injury resulting from falls, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.(1) This survey encompassed a significantly large demographic; arthritis was an umbrella term including those with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus and fibromyalgia. Therefore, the amount of participants with arthritis was 40 percent. Of these, about 13 percent had one fall and, interestingly, 13 percent experienced two or more falls in the previous year. Unfortunately, almost 10 percent of the participants sustained an injury from a fall. Patients 45 and older were as likely to fall as those 65 and older.

Why is exercise critical?

All exercise has value. A meta-analysis of a group of 17 trials showed that exercise significantly reduced the risk of a fall (9). If their categories are broken down, exercise had a 37 percent reduction in falls that resulted in injury and a 30 percent reduction in those falls requiring medical attention. But even more impressive was a 61 percent reduction in fracture risk. Remember, the lower the fracture risk, the more likely you are to remain physically independent. Thus, the author summarized that exercise not only helps to prevent falls, but also fall injuries. The weakness of this study was that there was no consistency in design of the trials included in the meta-analysis. Nonetheless, the results were impressive.

What specific types of exercise are useful?

Many times, exercise is presented as a word that defines itself. In other words: just do any exercise and you will get results. But some exercises may be more valuable or have more research behind them. Tai chi, yoga and aquatic exercise have been shown to have benefits in preventing falls and injuries from falls.

A randomized controlled trial, the gold standard of studies, showed that those who did an aquatic exercise program had a significant improvement in the risk of falls (10). The aim of the aquatic exercise was to improve balance, strength and mobility. Results showed a reduction in the number of falls from a mean of 2.00 to a fraction of this level — a mean of 0.29. There was no change in the control group.

There was also a 44 percent decline in the number of patients who fell. This study’s duration was six months and involved 108 post-menopausal women with an average age of 58. This is a group that is more susceptible to bone and muscle weakness. Both groups were given equal amounts of vitamin D and calcium supplements. The good news is that many patients really like aquatic exercise.

Thus, our best line of defense against fall risk is prevention. Does this mean stopping medications? Not necessarily. But for those 65 and older, or for those who have “arthritis” and are at least 45 years old, it may mean reviewing your medication list with your doctor. Before considering changing your BP medications, review the risk-to-benefit ratio with your physician. The most productive way to prevent falls is through lifestyle modifications.

(1) MMWR. 2014; 63(17):379-83. (2) J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1998;53(2):M112. (3) J Gerontol. 1991;46(5):M16. (4) MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2003;52(42):1019. (5) JAMA. 1995;273(17):1348. (6) Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;9:CD007146. (7) JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Apr;174(4):588-95. (8) JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(4):577-87. (9) BMJ. 2013;347:f6234. (10) Menopause. 2013;20(10):1012-1019.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For more information, go to the website and/or consult your personal physician.

Northport-East Northport school board members are looking into whether or not the district should buy iPads for trustees to be used at meetings instead of paper agendas. Stock photo

Northport-East Northport school board members earlier this month discussed whether the district should pay for iPads that trustees could use during meetings.

The idea was introduced by board member David Stein as a way to reduce costs of paper. The idea, however, was sharply denounced by the board’s Vice President David Badanes.

“I am really unhappy about any money being spent on board members for iPads,” Badanes said at the Oct. 8 board meeting. “I think it’s outrageous.”

Badanes, who was the lone naysayer, said he doesn’t have a problem with board members bringing their own iPads or electronic devices to meetings — he just doesn’t want the district to pay for them, he said.

According to District Clerk Beth Nystrom, there is currently no district policy that finances electronic devices for members of the school board’s use exclusively. She did say that board members are welcome to use district-owned electronic devices at board meetings, but presently none do.

Other board members said that while it may be fine for Badanes to have his own personal opinion, it’s not something he should hold everyone else to.

“Personal convictions are fine but each person should be given the right to decide,” Trustee Jennifer Thompson said. “It should not impugn the rest of us.”

Trustee Lori McCue said she felt it was unfair to tell board members who wanted to use an electronic device to bring one from home.

“I don’t know if it’s appropriate,” McCue said. “What if you don’t already own one of these devices?”

Stein claimed it’s more cost effective for the board to use electronic devices instead of getting paper agendas and other documents sent to their homes before each meeting.

“We spend nearly $800 worth of paper every year [on each board member],” Stein said. “If individuals want to embrace it, they’re saving $800 in taxpayer money.”

Stein said regular agendas are also not the only documents that are printed for board members every year.

“Based on 24 scheduled meetings per year, and an average of six specially called meetings plus the budget season, which can produce budget documents several times the size of a regular weekly package,” Stein said in an email. “The regular board member could receive anywhere from 22,000 pages during the course of a year.”

According to Nystrom, the cost is quite low to send board members paper agendas to their home annually.

“The approximate cost the district pays per board member to send printed copies of the agenda to their houses before meetings is approximately $35 per year,” Nystrom said in an email.

Board President Andrew Rapiejko encouraged board members to try and find the best way to serve the district.

“Everyone wants to do this job as effectively and efficiently as possible,” Rapiejko said. “They shouldn’t be criticized for trying to get the right tools. If the district can provide this tool, I think it should be discussed.”

Rapiejko also said that it is not for the board’s personal benefit to use these devices. “The district isn’t giving these out to board members,” Rapiejko said. “These are purchased for the district’s use.”

Trustee Regina Pisacani said she has been to other district board meetings where board members using electronic devices.

Rapiejko said the board could resume discussing this topic during budget season.

Local shellfish, like oysters and clams, are harvested on the North Shore. File photo

Citing recent bacteriological surveys, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced emergency regulations to change the designation of underwater shellfish lands in Suffolk county. Shellfish harvesting will be closed or limited to particular months in approximately 1,844 acres of bays and harbors in Brookhaven, Huntington, Islip, Smithtown, Riverhead, Southampton, Southold, East Hampton and Oyster Bay, to comply with state and national standards to protect public health.

Through the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, states are required to conduct routine water quality sampling in shellfish harvesting areas. Failure by a state to comply with these national water quality-monitoring protocols could lead to a prohibition of the sale of shellfish products in interstate commerce.

The DEC’s analyses of water quality in these areas showed increased levels of fecal coliform bacteria. The increased bacteria indicates that shellfish harvested from these areas have the potential to cause human illness if consumed.

Bacteria can enter the waters from a variety of human, animal, cesspool and storm water sources. The DEC is working with local governments in Suffolk County on major projects to improve water quality in the region, an effort that will reduce discharges of bacteria and nitrogen. The DEC will work with partners to track down the bacteria sources and oversee mandated local efforts to address illicit discharges of sewage into storm sewer systems, while also continuing to evaluate sources of bacteria in an effort to resolve the issue.

The DEC’s emergency regulations will change the designation of the affected shellfish areas to “uncertified,” or closed, for the harvest of clams, mussels, oysters and scallops, either year-round or seasonally.

In Mount Sinai Harbor in Brookhaven Town, approximately 200 acres will be reclassified as closed for the harvest of shellfish during the period May 1 to Oct. 31.

In Stony Brook Harbor, approximately 300 acres shall be reclassified as closed from May 15 through Oct. 31, to closed instead from May 1 through Dec. 31, for the harvest of shellfish.

In Cold Spring Harbor, approximately 99 acres shall be designated as closed during from May 1 through Oct. 15, for the harvest of shellfish.

For more information about shellfish safety and New York’s role in the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, visit the DEC’s website. The emergency regulations adopting the changes are effective immediately. Additional information may also be obtained by contacting the DEC’s Shellfisheries office at (631) 444-0492.

Officials cut the ribbon marking the opening of Stop & Shop. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Stop & Shop is a go in Huntington village.

Stop & Shop on Wall Street in Huntington is open for business. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Stop & Shop on Wall Street in Huntington is open for business. Photo by Rohma Abbas

On Friday morning, store officials marked the grand opening of the grocery’s newest Huntington location on Wall Street, where Waldbaums once was.

Employees were all smiles as Fred Myers, the store’s manager, cut a ceremonial ribbon to celebrate the business’s opening. He thanked the staff for helping prepare the store for its first day. He also presented a check for $2,000 to National Youth Empowerment, Inc., a Huntington Station organization.

“We’re excited to serve Huntington,” he said.

Offering a better selection of organic foods and sporting a sleeker, more sophisticated and flowing layout than some of its sister stores on the Island, Stop & Shop seeks to serve its patrons in new ways.

“It’s just what the customer wants,” Tony Armellino, the company’s district director said.

A look inside Stop & Shop in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas
A look inside Stop & Shop in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Stop & Shop also has stores in Dix Hills, East Northport, Northport and Woodbury.

Shoppers who came by to pick up some groceries on Friday morning said they liked what they saw. A longtime patron of Wauldbaums, Susan Collins, of Huntington, said the store looks great.

“I like the people who work here,” she said, noting that the company retained much of the Wauldbaums staff. She especially likes that the company preserved the Wauldbaums deli staff, “because they make going to the deli fun and not a chore.”

Angel Schmitt, another Huntington shopper, said she thinks they did a “great job” with the store design.

A look inside Stop & Shop in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas
A look inside Stop & Shop in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“It’s so clean and it’s very convenient for me.”

This location was just one of six the company was expected to open today, according to Tom Dailey, of C&S Wholesale Grocers, and one of 25 stores to open in the greater New York region after the end of a five-week period.

Dailey said he feels it’s going to be a nice store, in part because of its size — its not too big or small.

“Grocery stores are communities,” he said. “This still feels like a store that’s part of a community where you’re not walking into a warehouse.”

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Susan Berland and Gene Cook talk at a Huntington Town Board meeting. File photo

There’s a lot of fire in the race for Huntington Town Board this year: You could see unfriendly sparks flying between incumbents Susan Berland (D), of Dix Hills, and Gene Cook (I), of Greenlawn, at a debate hosted by TBR Newspapers. Passion for public office is one thing these two have in common, and that’s where the similarities end.

But it’s that, coupled with their experience in the positions and unique political strengths that this paper endorses Berland and Cook for four-year terms on the board.

Say what you will about Berland, who is unpopular in Elwood for her controversial vote in favor of rezoning land to make way for The Seasons at Elwood — a huge condominium development geared toward the 55-and-up community — but the councilwoman works hard; it is her full-time job. She has also worked to sponsor legislation that’s made a difference, including laws that help put an end to blight and legislation to regulate the invasive bamboo, which can frequently be a nuisance to neighbors.

Cook’s greatest strength lies in being the sole minority party member on the board, and his willingness to speak up when something fishy is going on, whether he’s right or wrong. The Democratic-majority board members fall in line on mostly all votes, and Cook is often the one to keep Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) on his toes. Dissension is important: It encourages compromise and analysis, and prevents elected officials from slipping controversial measures past residents.

This wasn’t an easy choice. Democrat Keith Barrett, of Huntington Station, is a fine candidate. He has good ideas and has already reduced expenses and reorganized services as head of the town’s general services department. With a few more years under his belt, he’d be ready to take another stab at Town Board.

While Republican Jennifer Thompson possesses great communication skills and the right attitude, she would be stronger in her current role on the Northport-East Northport school board.

Vote for Cook and Berland on Tuesday.

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Steve Stern file photo

Ending veteran homelessness in Suffolk, seemingly an impossible feat, is something Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) says he’s confident he can declare if given one more term in office in an election next week.

We endorse Stern. Not because of this vow. But because of the steps he’s taken to try and achieve this goal.

The legislator spearheaded a package of bills to attack the scourges of Suffolk County’s veteran homelessness problem. The bills propose to do so in a number of ways, including making properties available for veteran housing, working with nonprofits to offer greater services to vets and more.

He’s spent 10 years in office and he’s vying for his final two-year term before he is term limited.

While his challenger Republican Tom McNally, also of Dix Hills, has thought of some solutions to fix the county’s finances, we feel his plans need some work. Cutting from departments across the board may not be the best approach in certain cases.

Aside from his work on the ground with veterans, Stern chairs the county’s Veterans & Seniors Committee. In that role, he’s worked to help both populations while also saving the county money. He found a way to reorganize a program that provided free legal assistance to seniors funded by the county and the feds by getting Tauro Law school involved. The school now manages the program, and the county keeps the money it used to spend on it.

Experience is invaluable, and for that, coupled with his achievements, we say elect Stern to a final term in office next Tuesday.

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Bob Creighton and Ed Wehrheim. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Experience and track record are the name of the game in this year’s Smithtown Town Board race, and on that note, we endorse Republican incumbents Bob Creighton and Ed Wehrheim.

The two work well as a team, and say they have downtown revitalization high up on both their lists of priorities for another term.

They’ve backed a proposal to restructure Smithtown government to lead to more accountability and cooperation. The plan would involve creating four commissioner positions that would oversee about five to six department heads, compared to the 26 department heads currently answering to the supervisor. That plan stalled due to opposition from Republican Supervisor Pat Vecchio.

When it comes to economic development, both men encourage it. Wehrheim said he helped facilitate the redevelopment of the Smith Haven Mall and assisted in bringing Bob’s Discount Furniture to the Smithtown area. With Wehrheim’s support, Creighton also pitched raising the minimum wage, which eventually made its way into the town’s 2016 preliminary budget.

It will be an uphill battle at the polls next Tuesday for Creighton, as he won’t be running on the Republican line. That spot belongs to Lisa Inzerillo, a Republican who narrowly beat him out in a primary election on a rainy day — the perfect storm for low voter turnout.

Inzerillo did not show up for a debate at the Times of Smithtown’s headquarters.

Democratic challenger Larry Vetter is a knowledgeable, nice man, who strikes us as creative, energetic, bright and pragmatic. It would be great to see him take on some government position. But we feel right now is not his time as councilman.

Vote Creighton and Wehrheim on Election Day.

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Legislator Tom Muratore, center. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) said he doesn’t consider himself a politician but, instead, a man of the people. We agree.

Muratore, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2009, has plenty of evidence to back that up as he seeks his fourth term.

He stood up to the county Legislature alongside fellow Republicans earlier this month to call for changes to the Red Light Safety Program, with hopes of finding a fairer approach. He raised his voice alongside other county Republicans to push for more fiscal responsibility, but did not allow it to get in the way of advocacy for community-centric programming. He helped usher in key parkland projects throughout his Middle Country-centered district, including new baseball fields and walking paths.

He also kept his finger on the pulse of his district by listening to constituent concerns surrounding taxes and public safety, and making them key components of his agenda. He even took a proactive lead on one of the county’s first cracks at regulating the usage of drones, using it as a springboard to discuss privacy issues; and sponsored legislation establishing “safe spots” throughout the county to eradicate robberies stemming from online commerce.

On the issue of combatting Suffolk County’s drug epidemic, we stand behind Muratore in his approach. Muratore said the county needs to kill the roots of the drug problem by putting more police on the beat, performing outreach and targeting dealers.

Muratore’s Democratic opponent, Jonathan Rockfeld of Islip Terrace, has not actively campaigned.

Come Election Day, we say vote for Muratore.

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Martha Luft photo by Giselle Barkley

Martha Luft has served as a judge in Suffolk County Family Court for the past decade, and her experience and compassion while serving are why she deserves another term.

She is no stranger to serving in emotional courtrooms and meeting face-to-face with some of the most vulnerable members of our society. She comes to the job with humility, and the passion she shows while discussing different aspects of her work is impressive.

Some of the driving qualities she said keep her going include patience, communication and an ability to deliver tough love for those who need it most while still operating with compassion and understanding. She said she often calls on her experience as a mother of three and a grandmother of as many to guide her when working to balance her heart with her mind in her judgeship.

In her re-election bid, she faces off against Marlene Budd, George Harkin Jr. and Matthew Hughes. But of the four candidates seeking the two judgeships up for election this year, Luft was the only one rated highly qualified for the position, according to an Independent Judicial Election Qualifications Commissions report.

Luft is an exceptional candidate with a track record that supports our conviction.

She told us she loves family court. She said she thinks she found her calling, and so do we. Re-elect Martha Luft for Suffolk County Family Court judge.