Smile Safety for Active Kids

Active kids call for active safety. And while helmets, goggles and knee pads protect your kids’ bodies, it’s also important to protect their teeth. A mouthguard is an easy, reliable way to safeguard your child’s teeth during sports and play.
Mouthguards are especially crucial during contact sports such as football, hockey or boxing, where blows to the body and face are regular occurrences. But even non-contact sports, such as gymnastics, and recreational pastimes, such as skating or biking, pose a risk to the teeth.
In addition to cushioning your child’s teeth, using a mouthguard can prevent injury to the tongue, lips, face and jaw. Kids who wear dental braces should be especially careful to protect their mouths during physical activity.
A trip to the dentist can help you choose a mouthguard that’s right for your child. In general, there are three types of mouthguards to choose from:
– Stock Mouthguards. These pre-made protectors can usually be bought wherever sporting equipment is sold. Most dentists do not recommend their use because they cannot be adjusted to your mouth and provide only limited protection.
– Boil-and-Bite Mouthguards. Boil-and-Bite guards are softened with hot water and then molded over your child’s teeth. This somewhat custom fit leads to better protection and greater ease in talking and breathing. These are also available at most sporting goods stores.
– Custom Mouthguards. Your dentist can create a custom mouthguard designed specifically for your child’s teeth. These offer the best fit, comfort and protection, but may be more costly than store-bought varieties.

Are Baby Teeth Important?

Baby teeth are very important to your child’s development for several reasons. Not only do they encourage the development of the jaw bone – and reserve space required for the permanent teeth to follow – baby teeth also enable your child to chew solid food and assist in speech development. Moreover, they contribute to your child’s positive feelings about his or her appearance and help build confidence.

Therefore, it is important to begin a daily oral care routine for your child before the first tooth appears. After each feeding, wipe your child’s gums with a warm, wet cloth or a small gauze pad to remove excess food and bacteria. As soon as the first teeth appear, brush them with a small, soft-bristled brush moistened with warm water. When teeth begin to touch each other, add daily flossing to the routine.

With adult supervision, most children are able to brush and floss their own teeth by about age four. However, we recommend assisting your child at least once a day to ensure a thorough job. You should continue to monitor your child’s oral care throughout childhood. Remember, with your own healthy oral care habits, you serve as an important role model for your child.


Sinusitis Got You Down?

During the winter months – in fact, any time when the air is very dry – it’s important to keep your nasal passages moist. A simple home remedy is to sniff salt solution into both nostrils 2-4 times a day.

To prepare an effective homemade solution, add ½ teaspoon of table salt and ½ a teaspoon if baking soda into one cup of distillated water. If using tap water, make sure to sterilize it through boiling and then allow it to cool. Stir the cool water until the salt and baking soda dissolves completely.

To apply, fill a squeeze bottle with the saline solution. Direct the saline solution stream toward the back of your head (not toward the top). The saline wash should go through the nose and out the mouth or other nostril. Repeat the process several times a day for best results.

Alternatively, you can buy ready-prepared nasal saline products – such as Ocean®, Simply Saline® or generic equivalents – from a drug store. As with the home solution, these products wash away mucus from the membranous lining of nasal passages.

They also help by shrinking any swollen parts of the nasal passage. If this is not done, mucus and the swollen membranes may block openings of the sinuses into the nasal passages. Sinusitis often ensues when nasal bacteria infect the mucus, which can no longer drain from the blocked sinus. Treatment of sinusitis (rather than prevention) often requires the use of antibiotics.

Some doctors are not enthusiastic about nasal saline irrigation since researchers found it does not significantly reduce the incidence of colds. However, do not confuse the common cold with sinusitis. Viruses cause colds, while sinusitis is a bacterial-induced complication of some colds.

Irrigation of the nasal passages with saline cannot kill viruses or bacteria. However, it does help to reduce the incidence of sinusitis in people with a tendency to develop this common complication.


Food For Serious Thought

Many different types of food can cause tooth decay in children, not just candy. Foods high in carbohydrates – as well as some fruits, juices and sodas, peanut butter, crackers and potato chips – also attack children’s teeth. It’s important to understand not only what foods children eat but also the frequency particular foods are eaten and how long they remain as particles in the mouth.

What About Soda?

In addition to serious ailments later in life (e.g. diabetes, osteoporosis, etc.), dentists believe kids who consume too much soda and not enough nutritional beverages are more prone to tooth decay. Even if children drink soda occasionally, any prolonged exposure to soda can cause damage. Sipping a soft drink all afternoon is more harmful to teeth than drinking a large soda with a meal and then not drinking any soda for the rest of the day.

Drinking carbonated soft drinks regularly – or over a long period of time – contributes to the erosion of tooth enamel and enamel breakdown leads to cavities. If erosion spreads beneath the enamel, pain and sensitivity may eventually result. This can cause nerve infection, in which case a root canal might even be necessary.

Prevent Damage

Children at school should rinse their mouths with water after meals, leaving their teeth free of sugar and acid. Children should also seek sources of fluoridation. One good source of fluoride is from fluoridated bottled water. Or, if the local water supply is fluoridated, encourage children to drink tap or fountain water.

Children should use a straw when drinking soda to keep sugar away from teeth. In fact, even bottled juices should be consumed with a straw, due to the high sugar content. Furthermore, consider sugary drinks from a can or box rather than a bottle with a replaceable cap to discourage prolonged exposure.

Preventive Care

Children should also be supervised as they brush. Generally, when children can dress themselves and tie their own shoes (4-5 years of age), then they are ready to brush unsupervised. However, children should be supervised in proper flossing techniques at least until the age of 10.
If you have any concerns about your child’s dental health, or want some additional tips on preventing tooth decay, give our office a call.


How to Floss

You probably know that brushing alone won’t take care of your oral hygiene — you hear it all the time from commercials, your dentist, probably even from your mother. You probably know they’re all right, too.

With regular dental cleanings, your dentist can help prevent the crevices between your teeth from becoming a playground for all kinds of dental diseases including cavities and bad breath. But you can also play an integral role in the health of your teeth and gums by making sure to floss at least once a day — especially before going to bed.

If it isn’t already, be sure to make dental floss part of your oral hygiene toolkit. Dental floss is great for cleaning the areas between your teeth because it can reach where your toothbrush can’t.

Floss is available waxed or unwaxed, flavored or unflavored, thin or wide. The kind of floss you want is entirely up to you, though you might want to consider that waxed floss slips in between teeth easier, and smooth, soft floss provides maximum comfort for your gums. Of course, flavor doesn’t hurt either.

How to Floss Teeth

Flossing seems easy enough, but you’ll want to make sure you’re doing it right to maximize the benefits of all your effort. Compare your flossing techniques to the steps below, and make adjustments to your routine wherever necessary.

– Break off just over an arm’s length of floss.

– Loosely wind about six inches of floss around your middle finger and use your thumb to hold it in place.

– Hold and straighten the floss with the thumb and pointer finger of your other hand.

– Use a gentle back and forth motion to guide the floss between your teeth.

– Make sure to never “snap” the floss into your gums.

When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it against your tooth and gently slide it under your gums and then away from your gum line.

Wind the used floss around your middle finger as you go.

Learning how to floss teeth properly can be the difference between a clean, healthy mouth and one riddled with tooth decay and gum disease. Keep in mind that while there are no guarantees when it comes to your dental health, solid oral hygiene habits, combined with regular dental visits, is the best insurance your teeth have.


Bridging The Gap

How we perceive our smile and appearance affects our self-esteem, our mood and how we function in social as well as work settings. And, since most people aren’t tough, hardened boxers or hockey players, missing teeth don’t serve as a badge of honor. Rather, it’s source of insecurity and embarrassment.

In fact, many people have spaces, or gaps, in their teeth. Either the teeth aligned that way naturally or the gaps were created (e.g. by extraction of teeth, injury, gum disease). For many patients, the treatment of choice is a fixed bridge – an attached group of crowns (caps) – to replace the missing teeth.

Traditional bridges are made with porcelain fused to metal for both strength and esthetics. To prepare for the bridge, the teeth are cut into a conical shape to serve as abutments to which the fixed bridge is attached so the pontics (i.e. crowns that replace the missing teeth) are held in position. This procedure usually takes two to four visits, depending on the situation, and is completed when the bridge is permanently cemented to the abutment teeth.

Of course, each patient presents specific circumstances that must be evaluated on their own merits. Factors such as occlusion (bite), oral habits, available space, health of the gum tissue, severity of the problem and patient expectations must be taken into consideration while planning a cosmetic makeover.

Please call our office to discuss your particular situation. We welcome the opportunity to restore your smile and confidence.


Seniors at Higher Risk for Dental Cavities

You may think that as an adult you don’t have to worry about cavities anymore — but dental cavities aren’t just child’s play!

As we entered the new millennium, it was discovered that seniors were actually getting more dental cavities than children. Today, children and seniors are still the two highest at-risk groups for tooth decay.

Aging puts us at greater risk for dental problems — the wearing away of tooth enamel, receding gums and loss of jawbone are signs that our mouths are aging along with our bodies.

Your grandparents could probably tell you that, in their youth, most senior citizens had missing teeth. Many lost their teeth to dental disease, and a tooth extraction was a common treatment for dental problems.

With current dental technology, we’re relying less on old-fashioned dentistry and more on modern dental procedures to restore our smiles. That’s great news to seniors, who are keeping their teeth longer. Now for the bad news — anyone with natural teeth can get dental cavities. And the longer we have our teeth, the more we expose them to the elements that can cause tooth decay.

The Risk Factors

Unfortunately, geriatric teeth are less able to handle the normal wear and tear of those in younger generations. There are several reasons why seniors may be prone to more dental cavities:

Lack of Fluoride — Most of our nation’s seniors didn’t have the benefits of community water fluoridation while growing up. And with the popularity of bottled water today, seniors may still not be getting the fluoride they need. Fluoride strengthens teeth and helps prevent tooth decay.

Arthritis — Those who suffer from arthritis, or other medical conditions, may have a hard time gripping a toothbrush or floss, making it difficult to practice daily oral hygiene.

Gum Disease — Over 95% of seniors have receding gums, exposing the roots of teeth and making them vulnerable to the same dental diseases that affect the tooth’s crown. Root decay is becoming much more common among seniors.

Dry Mouth — Dry mouth is often a side effect of medications or health problems often associated with seniors. Saliva is needed to wash away food particles and neutralize the acid that promotes tooth decay. When our mouths are dry, our teeth become more susceptible to cavities.

Diet — Aging may cause our diet to change. Seniors often lean towards softer foods, which don’t always have the nutrients you need for healthy teeth. A diet heavy in carbohydrates and sugar also contributes to dental cavities.

Assisted Living — Although assisted living centers are designed to help our loved ones get the care they need, oral hygiene may fall by the wayside. Unfortunately, a lack of individual attention may keep seniors from maintaining their smiles.

Finances — When on a fixed income, oral health care may not be a priority. Some seniors can’t afford to pay for dental products or professional dental care.

Look Grandma — No Dental Cavities!

There are several ways seniors can improve their chances of staying dental cavity-free. A diet low in sugar and high in calcium promotes tooth health. If you aren’t getting enough fluoride, try using fluoride toothpastes, mouth rinses or tablets. Drinking water, sucking on sugar-free candy or chewing sugarless gum promotes saliva production and reduces dry mouth.

For seniors with dexterity problems, wrap tape or an elastic bandage around the toothbrush. If a wider grip is needed, you can even try taping a tennis ball, sponge or rubber bicycle grip to the handle. An electric toothbrush may also be helpful for those who cannot maneuver a manual toothbrush easily. And daily flossing should not be forgotten, either — floss holders and waxed floss may make it easier for seniors to continue their oral hygiene routine.

Because of the special dental needs of seniors, regular dental visits are necessary to maintain their oral health. Dentists use this time to check for the dental problems that affect older patients, including gum disease, root decay and oral cancer. If a senior you know is living in a nursing home, arrange for them to receive oral care and continue with their dental appointments. If transporting them to the dental office is impossible, try finding a dentist who can arrange in-house care at their facility.

Now that you have the chance to keep your teeth for a lifetime, you should take advantage of it. Taking the right steps to maintain your smile will help you remain cavity-free, so you can truly experience what your golden years have to offer!


Smart Snack: Brought To You By Apples

Getting kids to eat fruit, veggies and yogurt instead of candy, chips and ice cream might feel like pulling teeth. However, it’s worth the extra effort to educate and condition them to eat “smart” snacks that keep their teeth – and entire body – healthy.

Whether you’re transitioning older kids to a healthier, balanced diet or just getting started with a little one, here are some tips for creating lifelong, healthy snacking habits:

• Lead by example – Kids often mimic what you do, so it’s important that you eat smart snacks, too. And be sure to practice good oral hygiene in front of your kids. If you brush and floss after meals and snacks, your kids will too.
• Provide “creative” snacks — Show your kids that healthy snacks can be nutritious, good for your teeth AND fun. Prepare tasty combinations, such as apple slices with peanut butter, meat and cheese rollups, or yogurt sprinkled with granola and bananas.
• Involve your kids – When you make a grocery list, ask your kids to brainstorm about what kinds of food they’d like to eat. This is a good opportunity to guide them regarding what’s good or bad for their teeth. Then go grocery shopping together and teach your kids how to read the Nutrition Facts label so that they can check the sugar content.
• Prepare nutritious meals – Snacking smart is a great start, and good for the teeth, but so is eating well-balanced breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Make sure to add fruits and vegetables to every meal so that your kids incorporate them into their long-term eating lifestyle.

As your family dentist, we can help you come up with even more ideas for healthy snacks. Come in for a visit and we’ll happily work on a plan together.


Sleep Apnea

Did you know millions of people suffer from snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)? It is estimated that at least 75% of the population suffer from these problems. Obstructive sleep apnea not only causes fatigue and severe daytime drowsiness, but many other problems such as poor memory, clouded intellect, personality changes, irritability, decreased sex drive, impotence, morning headaches and many health problems. Obstructive sleep apnea contributes to cardiovascular disease, as well as conditions such as hypertension, stroke, heart attacks and heart disease.
Many studies show that those with OSA have a 15% higher rate for health problems as well as a 15% higher mortality rate. Those with OSA are three times more likely to be in a car accident.
Snoring and Obstructive sleep apnea not only affects health and quality of life, but also severely affects a spouse or significant other’s life. Many studies show that spouses slept an additional 62 minutes and their quality of life increased significantly after their partner was treated.
What causes snoring and OSA? During normal sleep we breathe air in through our mouth and nose into our airway. If the muscles of the tongue and palate fall back into the airway, they can constrict the airway or completely close it off. When constricted the air causes the muscles to vibrate, thus causing snoring. When the airway is completely closed off, this causes an apnea event to occur (stop breathing) which causes your brain to awake you to start breathing again. Thus someone’s quality of sleep is greatly affected by these continuous awakenings or arousals throughout the night.
The first and most effective treatment for OSA is a CPAP machine. Unfortunately many people cannot tolerate wearing their CPAP and end up doing nothing to help their condition. Oral appliance therapy is an alternative to CPAP. An oral appliance is a small plastic device that fits over the teeth, just like an orthodontic retainer or mouth guard. The appliance is worn in the mouth during sleep to prevent the soft tissue of the throat from collapsing and obstructing the airway. Oral appliances work by slightly advancing the lower jaw which in turn moves the base of the tongue forward and opens the airway to allow improved breathing and reduced snoring and apneas during sleep.

History Bites

Dating back to the Neolithic Period, humans once believed the stabbing pain of a toothache was caused by a “tooth worm” that either appeared spontaneously or bored its way into the tooth. If the tooth pain was severe, it meant the worm was wriggling; if the aching stopped, the worm was resting.

Cultures across the world held stubbornly to this myth. In fact, folklore of the tooth worm persisted from at least 5000 BC to the beginning of the 18th Century. Here are two of our favorite prescribed remedies for the infamous tooth worm:

Ancient Greece

Perhaps foreshadowing future greatness, Greeks of the Archaic Period (8th to 6th centuries BC) made a fairly astute association but missed the connection. They used donkey milk as a mouthwash to strengthen the gums and teeth. However, the ancient Greeks then took a step in the wrong direction and applied a frog to the cheek or head on the side of the toothache to absorb the pain. Ultimately taking a turn for the worse, they would also spit into the frog’s mouth, hoping to transfer the pain to the unfortunate amphibian.

The Middle Ages

A millennium later, ironically, people of the Middle Ages actually used honey to coat an infected tooth. Believing the tooth worm shared their sweet cravings, people smeared aching teeth with honey and waited all night in vain, tweezers in hand, ready to snatch the tooth worm. And, apparently, those with a more pungent disposition applied a raw onion to the sore side of their face. Any way you slice it, successful courtship in the Middle Ages must have been a massive achievement!

21st Century Dentistry

Fortunately, modern dentistry made colossal strides since the Middle Ages. And preventing tooth decay is now easier and more convenient than ever. Equipped with the latest technologies and treatment plans, you can rest assured you won’t find yourself with a frog on your face . . . unless that’s your thing.

Call our office today to make an appointment before the dreaded tooth worm attacks and you find yourself rummaging through a swamp in search of wishful relief.