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Dental Sealants for Cavity Prevention

THERE ARE MANY pits and grooves in the chewing surface of a molar where bacteria can grow and lead to cavities. That’s where sealants come in. Since the ‘60s, sealants have been a simple but effective way to keep bacteria out of those vulnerable areas in molars, and they reduce the risk of tooth decay by up to 80%!

How Much Do Sealants Help?

Kids who don’t get sealants are about three times as likely to get cavities. No matter how good they are about brushing twice a day, they might not have enough dexterity to do an effective job on those tricky molars. Sealants make effective brushing much easier for them.

An Overview of the Sealant Process

How do we add sealants? Easy! It takes just a few minutes during a regular visit. We first prepare their molars by cleaning away any food debris, plaque, or tartar and give them a nice polish. Then we isolate and dry each tooth. Next comes the bonding agent, which will hold the sealant in place. Once we rinse and dry the tooth again, all that’s left is to paint on the sealant material. Using a special curing light, we help the sealant dry quickly, we give it one final check, and then the tooth is safe to be used for chewing!

Sealants are like armor for teeth!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Dental Care Tips for Parents of Young Kids

THE LIFE OF A PARENT is a hectic one. Keeping track of everything your growing child needs can be a real juggling act, so maybe we can take one of the balls out of the air by offering a few easy tips for how to stay on top of your kids’ dental health (without neglecting your own)!

1. Choosing the Right Toothbrush

Brushing (whether with a manual or electric toothbrush) is the easiest and most important method of cavity prevention, but it can be tricky to find the right toothbrush for your child with so many different options available.

A good place to start is by looking for a toothbrush with soft, polished (round-ended) bristles. These brushes clean effectively but are still gentle to the gums. Make sure the brush is designed for small hands and mouths, and try to replace it every few months or so. A brush with frayed, smashed bristles won’t be as effective!

Your child probably won’t be able to brush their teeth effectively without help until they’re 7 or 8, so make sure to work with them and supervise their technique. Then they’ll know how to do it properly when they’ve developed enough hand-eye coordination for it!

2. Sealants Are Excellent for Cavity-Prevention

Dental sealants are a layer of clear plastic material that can be painted over the deep grooves and pits in the chewing surfaces of teeth to prevent decay and block out bacteria. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends sealants, especially for children who already have a history of tooth decay. Sealants significantly reduce the risk of childhood caries.

3. Cheese and Fruit: Great Teeth-Friendly Snacks

Research shows that some of the healthiest snacks for a growing child’s teeth are cheese and fruit. Cheese is a great source of calcium (which will help remineralize their tooth enamel) and helps to stimulate the salivary glands. Saliva is important for clearing food remnants away and neutralizing harmful acids. Fruit is also a great mouth-healthy snack, because the fibers of the fruit help scrub teeth clean. We recommend whole or sliced fruit over fruit juice every time!

4. Pediatric Dentists and Teen Patients

The term “pediatric dentistry” might sound like it’s only for small children, but pediatric dentists have specialized expertise in treating growing teenagers’ oral health too. The teenage years are a period of tremendous growth and change for a child’s face and jaws, which certainly merits the attention of a specialist.

5. Parents, Know What to Expect from Whitening Toothpaste

Parents and teens alike love having pearly white teeth, but make sure you understand how whitening toothpaste works so you can manage your expectations. These types of toothpaste contain mild abrasives and polishing agents to remove surface stains, but they can’t do anything about deeper stains, which require more thorough whitening treatments like microabrasion or bleaching.

Extra Tip: The Dentist Is Your Best Dental Health Resource

Whatever questions you have about your child’s dental health or your own are questions we’d love to answer! We look forward to seeing you for your regular cleaning appointments or if you have cause for concern between your regular visits.

No one has better smiles than our patients!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
The Advanced Dental Care of Ancient China

 

RUDIMENTARY DENTAL EXTRACTIONS were performed in China as early as 6,000 BC, and there is also evidence that they used wires to stabilize teeth. They didn’t seem to be very interested in straightening teeth, but they were quite advanced when it came to treating endodontic problems.

Treating Toothaches in the Tang Dynasty

In 618 AD, Emperor Gaozu of the Tang Dynasty fell victim to a toothache. He consulted with his tooth doctor for relief, and his recommendation was a dental filling made of melted silver and tin. European dentists wouldn’t catch up until over a thousand years later!

Daily Dental Hygiene in Ancient China

The typical oral hygiene routine for a person in ancient China was to gargle salt water or tea. It became common in the Tang dynasty to soak a willow twig in water before bed and chew on it in the morning. The willow fibers would protrude like a comb and scrub the teeth clean. That’s where the Chinese idiom “chew wood at dawn” comes from.

Wait…They Had Toothbrushes Too?

Some people from that period had access to toothbrushes made of animal bone and hair. They also had an early form of toothpaste made from boiling honey locust fruit, ginger, foxglove, lotus leaves, and other herbs to reduce gum inflammation, ease toothaches, and whiten the teeth.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Medicine’s Relationship With Oral Health

POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS are a concern with pretty much every medication that exists. We can all hear the drug commercial voice rattling off a list of them in our heads. Unfortunately, side effects from medications often overlap with oral health concerns, even when the medications aren’t treating conditions related to teeth and gums.

How Medicine Interacts With Oral Chemistry

In some cases, medications (or even vitamins) can be directly harmful to our teeth. This is a problem particularly with children’s medication, which tend to come in the form of sugary syrups and candy-like multivitamins.

Adult medicine is usually in pill form so it doesn’t have a chance to directly interact with teeth or gums, but not always. Inhalers may lead to oral side effects like oral thrush (painful or irritating patches of white fungus that grow on the tongue, the roof of the mouth, and the inside of the cheeks). A good preventative measure adults and children alike can take to avoid these direct oral side effects is to rinse with water after taking any of these kinds of medications or vitamins.

The More Indirect Effects of Medicine on Oral Health

Medications that make it past the mouth without causing direct harm can still have mouth-related side effects. One example is blood thinners, which can make the gums more vulnerable to bleeding while brushing and flossing. Gum tissue inflammation is a common side effect that can increase the risk of gum disease.

The most common oral side effect of medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, is dry mouth. Not only can dry mouth make chewing and swallowing more difficult and uncomfortable, it can also leave the teeth and gums vulnerable to harmful oral bacteria. Saliva is the first line of defense we have against that bacteria. Without it, it’s much harder to protect against tooth decay and gum disease.

Other Weird Oral Effects Medicine Can Cause

In rare cases, osteoporosis drugs have been associated with compromised bone tissue in the jaw, which increases the risk of gum recession and tooth loss. Some medications can do strange things to our sense of taste, even if they don’t cause any real harm to our oral health. There might be a weird bitter or metallic aftertaste that lingers.

Discuss Your Side Effects With the Dentist and Your Doctor

It’s important to keep your health care professionals in the loop where side effects are concerned. If those side effects are happening inside your mouth, then make sure to tell the dentist as well as your doctor! It may be possible to change your prescription or dosage to minimize or completely eliminate the negative effects while maintaining the benefits of the medication, but only if the doctor knows what’s going on!

Always remember that the dentist is a great resource!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
How We Breathe Impacts our Teeth for Life

MOUTH-BREATHING CAN cause all kinds of short-term issues, many of which are connected to poor sleep quality from getting insufficient oxygen by breathing through the mouth.

Short-Term Consequences of a Mouth-Breathing Habit

If a child exhibits the following symptoms, it could be due to mouth-breathing:

  1. Impaired speech. When a child’s mouth is always open, certain sounds become more difficult to say.
  2. Halitosis (chronic bad breath). An open mouth tends to be a dry mouth, which means there isn’t enough saliva to clean out the germs.
  3. Tooth decay. Other serious byproducts of dry mouth are tooth decay and cavities.
  4. Irritability, lethargy, and inattention. Less oxygen means worse sleep, which makes it much harder for kids to pay attention in school and to be their bright, happy selves.

How Mouth-Breathing Impacts Health Long-Term

While the above issues are bad enough, the problems that come from mouth-breathing don’t stop there. If left unchecked throughout childhood, mouth-breathing can cause the following:

  1. Extended orthodontic treatment. Braces will take longer and there will be a higher chance of the teeth shifting back to their pre-braces position.
  2. Altered facial structure. The bones in the face can actually develop differently because of mouth-breathing, resulting in flatter features, droopy eyes, a narrow jaw, and a smaller chin.
  3. Sleep apnea. Mouth-breathing can increase a person’s risk for sleep apnea, a dangerous sleep disorder that makes it difficult to get a restful night’s sleep.
Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
When to Start Discouraging Thumbsucking

IT MIGHT BE CLICHÉD to say it, but it’s true that kids grow up fast. They’re constantly outgrowing their clothes, outsmarting your most ingenious baby-proofing techniques, and learning new things. We can’t help you with all of that, but we’re here with all the information you need about your child’s dental development, which is why it’s time to talk about how pacifier use or thumb/finger-sucking beyond the toddler years can negatively impact their teeth and jaws.

Thumbsucking and Pacifiers Are Good (to a Point)!

These habits don’t have a great reputation, but they’re perfectly healthy self-soothing habits for babies and toddlers. It helps them feel safe and happy when they encounter something new or stressful — which is often, considering that everything is new for babies and toddlers. There are a number of benefits, including:

  • Making it easier for Baby to fall asleep and stay asleep (which also means fewer sleep interruptions for the parents)
  • Keeping Baby from getting upset when separated from parents
  • Reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

When Do They Stop Being Good?

Past a certain age, as adult teeth are developing in your child’s jaw, frequent and vigorous thumbsucking or pacifier use begin to have harmful effects on how those adult teeth will grow in, and they can even change the shape of the dental arch. There’s no need to preemptively worry about this, however; most children grow out of these self-soothing habits on their own before they turn four. If they’re showing no sign of stopping by then, it might be a good time to intervene.

Tips for Breaking a Thumbsucking Habit

Stopping your child from using their pacifier can be as simple as taking the pacifier away or trimming it down until they lose interest, but obviously that’s not possible for thumbsuckers. We wouldn’t recommend trying to stop them as toddlers because they aren’t mature enough to understand and will likely only be upset. Nasty-tasting topical aids also aren’t perfect, and sometimes they can be harmful.

Here are a few strategies we can get behind:

  • Focus more on praising successes than scolding failures.
  • Keep their hands too busy with engaging activities (like arts and crafts) for them to have a free thumb for sucking.
  • Put socks over their hands while they sleep to prevent nighttime thumbsucking (you might have to tape the socks in place).

Ask Us for Advice!

If your child is getting closer to preschool age with no signs of stopping their pacifier or thumbsucking habit, feel free to bring us your concerns! We can work together to come up with a great strategy for helping your child outgrow this tendency to keep their healthy dental development on track!

Your child’s oral health is our top priority!

Top image by Flickr user Byron and Tamara used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
The Decayed Teeth of Early Modern England

THERE WAS SOMETHING rotten in the state of England during the Early Modern Era: everyone’s sweet tooth! The English loved the expensive new commodity of sugar so much that the royalty and nobility were extremely prone to tooth decay and foul breath. Foul breath seems to have been on Shakespeare’s mind too because it got at least three mentions in his plays and sonnets.

A Class-Based Dental Health Crisis

The weirdest part is that having bad teeth was such a pervasive problem among the rich in particular that it became trendy among the lower classes to artificially blacken their teeth with soot. It was a great way for them to make themselves seem wealthy enough to afford sugar!

Early Modern Dental Health…Solutions?

How did the English try to keep their teeth healthy? They used herbs like cloves for their breath and toothpicks and cloths to clean their teeth. (We would much rather have our modern toothbrushes.)

When these methods proved insufficient to prevent cavities and a tooth became so painful that it needed to be pulled, they had a few options depending on budget. The most expensive choice was a surgeon, but a “tooth-drawer” was cheaper and a blacksmith would do it for a real bargain.

It’s Good to Have Modern Dentists

Isn’t it wonderful to live in a time when we have effective dental hygiene and access to twelve different specialties of dental professionals — everything from pediatric dentists to orthodontists to endodontists and more?

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Improving Our Mood and Health With Smiles

THE OLD LINE “it takes fewer muscles to smile than frown” isn’t actually true. It takes at least ten muscles to smile but as few as six to frown, so maybe the saying should be something like “you burn more calories when you smile than when you frown!” instead. However, getting a better workout isn’t the only benefit we get from smiling!

The Feedback Loop Between Smiling and Happiness

Obviously, we smile when we’re happy, but evidence shows that the very act of smiling might make us feel happier. Smiling is so closely linked to the feeling of happiness in our brains that even a fake smile can release endorphins — the feel-good hormone — and make us feel better. The next time you’re having a rough day, try flashing a smile and see if that helps a little!

We Reduce Pain and Stress by Smiling

Those endorphins we get from smiling can do a lot of helpful things besides just contributing to a better mood. Short-term, endorphins help to reduce pain and relieve stress because they function in a similar way to painkillers (except without the side effects).

A 2012 experiment tested how long it took subjects’ heart rates to return to normal after completing a stressful task, and the smiling subjects recovered faster. The way the experiment worked was that the non-smiling group had to hold a pencil between their lips while they did the task (forcing a more pout-like expression), while the smiling group had to hold the pencil between their teeth (forcing more of a smile).

The Long-Term Benefits of Smiling: A Better Immune System!

Those short-term endorphin effects are great, but it doesn’t even stop there! Over time, when we make a habit of smiling more, the effects compound into long-term health benefits like making us more resilient against illnesses and reducing our risk of getting cancer. The reason for this is that the better we manage our stress, the fewer stress-induced mutations our cells go through over the years.

Smile More, Live Longer

People typically perceive a smiling face as being more attractive and younger than a non-smiling face, and that’s not just about appearances. Over the course of a lifetime of smiling, we might accrue enough health benefits to actually live longer. One way to make it easier to smile more is to be proud of the way our smiles look because we have healthy teeth and gums. For that, we need great dental health habits and regular professional dental care.

Bring Your Beautiful Smile to the Dentist!

Don’t fight the battle for your smile’s health on your own; the dentist can help. Schedule regular cleaning appointments to get that professional deep clean and catch any problems while they are still small, and bring any questions you have about dental health with you!

Nothing makes us smile quite like our patients!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
40% of Kids Have a Cavity by Age 11!

TWO OUT OF EVERY FIVE kids will end up with one or more cavities by their eleventh birthday. At those numbers, cavities are the most common childhood disease. What can parents do to fight these odds? We’re here to help by identifying the biggest childhood cavity culprits.

Sugary Snacks Are Cavity-Causers

Treats and snacks loaded with sugar are a big one, especially when kids are munching on them throughout the day. It takes saliva about thirty minutes to wash away food residue and neutralize acids produced by oral bacteria. When kids are in a continuous state of snacking, their saliva can’t do its job, leaving their teeth to be constantly bathed by acid, which erodes enamel and leads to decay. We recommend keeping the sugary treats to mealtimes and offering sliced fruits and veggies if they still want snacks between meals.

…And So Are Sugary Drinks!

Another big culprit is sugary drinks. We aren’t just talking about soda; fruit juice is a major cavity-causer too! When kids are able to sip fruit juice all day from a sippy cup or as they fall asleep, it produces the same result as continuous snacking. This is so damaging to teeth that we refer to it as “bottle rot.”

Try to limit the amount of sugary drinks your child consumes, and especially keep them to mealtimes!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
The Typical Timeline for Baby Teeth

TWO OF THE BIGGEST milestones of child development are when their baby teeth start coming in and when they start being replaced by adult teeth. First-time parents probably have a lot of questions about what’s normal and whether it’s time to worry, so we want to give you a quick guide to when you can start looking for the signs of incoming teeth and when they might start to get loose.

Our Teeth Start Growing Before We’re Born

By week six of pregnancy, tooth buds begin forming. They grow through the rest of the pregnancy and after birth in a process called odontogenesis. Even after the teeth begin to push through the gums, the roots still have some growing left to do.

Baby Teeth Tend to Erupt in Pairs

We don’t get full sets of teeth all at once; instead, we tend to get them two by two, alternating between top and bottom. The lower central incisors are the first to appear, which usually happens between month six and month ten. Next up are the upper central incisors (the two front teeth) between months eight and twelve. The lateral incisors appear next: first bottom, then top.

You might think the canines would come next because they’re the next teeth in the arch, but instead, it’s the first pair of lower molars, then the upper molars. Only then do the canine teeth catch up, and the second set of molars are the last to appear. By age three, most toddlers will have the full set of twenty baby teeth.

When to Bring Concerns to the Dentist

If you’re worried that your toddler’s teeth might not be arriving on schedule, feel free to get in touch with us. In most cases, there’s no cause for concern until month eighteen comes and goes and no teeth have appeared. But whether those teeth come in early or late, as soon as you see the first one, it’s a great time for baby’s first dental appointment!

Alert the Tooth Fairy!

On average, kids start losing baby teeth around age five or six. If it’s taking a little longer, they might start to feel left behind by their peers. Losing a tooth is a big rite of passage for kids. It’s a tangible symbol of maturity.

If no teeth are becoming loose by their seventh birthday, it could be time for the dentist to take a look to find out why. Most of the time, there’s nothing to worry about, and late-blooming teeth actually tend to be stronger and more cavity-resistant than the early ones!

What Are Natal Teeth?

In rare cases, a baby might be born already having one or two teeth. This doesn’t mean they’re way ahead of their developmental schedule, though; these teeth are natal teeth, and they aren’t part of the normal set of baby teeth. Most of the time, when they appear, they’re shaped oddly and have weak roots, making them very loose. Doctors might even remove them before the parents bring the baby home from the hospital.

Over the centuries, different cultures have had a wide range of reactions to these weird (but harmless) extra teeth, both positive and negative. They were considered bad luck in China but a sign of a wonderful future ahead in Europe. Some Ural-Altaic tribes considered natal teeth a sign that the child was a sorcerer.

Keep Brushing Teeth of All Ages!

Whether a child is six months old and just cut their very first tooth or they’re a teenager with nearly a full set of adult teeth, every tooth needs to be cleaned daily. Establishing healthy brushing habits in childhood while kids still have their baby teeth makes it much easier for them to continue those habits into adulthood.

Our patients are the best!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
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