Sippy Cup: Friend Or Foe?

The sippy cup is a spill proof, lid-covered drinking cup designed to help parents teach their toddlers how to drink without spilling. Children can toss it, drop it and turn it upside down, but they can’t spill its contents. That’s thanks to a valve in the top that releases liquid only when a child puts his lips around the tip and sucks. Day after day countless parents reach for that sippy cup their toddlers love so well, proud that the bottle is a thing of the past, and thrilled that their car seats and living room carpets will be spared! These parents though, should think twice before resorting to extended use of the sippy cup.

Many parents operate under the mistaken impression that the sippy cup is better than allowing the child to sleep with a bottle. The damage done by the bedtime bottle is fueled by the fact that no saliva flows during sleep to clear liquids from the mouth or dilute them. Liquids bathe the teeth all night. The sippy cup filled with sweetened liquids can cause the same damaging effects. The child’s teeth are immersed in the liquid during drinking and many parents allow unlimited access to the sippy cup.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children be weaned from the bottle by 12-14 months of age and be encouraged to drink from a cup. Parents are cautioned however that the repetitive consumption of liquids that contain fermentable carbohydrates (milk, juice, soft drinks etc.) from a bottle or sippy cup should be avoided.

• Be very selective about the liquids that you give your child from the sippy cup. Avoid milk, juice, and soft drinks. Try water or sugar free beverages instead.

• Use the sippy cup only as a transition to a regular cup or adult drinking glass with no lid.

• Consider cup design carefully. A pop-up straw reduces the amount of time the liquid is in contact with the teeth.

• Some speech pathologists have expressed concern about over use of the sippy cup and liken its use to a thumb-sucking habit, the effects of which are well documented.

Preventive Dentistry: Toothbrushing

Toothbrushing is an effective way of removing plaque [sticky mixture of bacteria, food & debris] from your teeth. Daily removal of plaque can prevent tooth decay and periodontal [gum] disease. Select a toothbrush that will provide easy access to all areas of your mouth; this includes one with a small head [1 inch by ½ inch] and a flexible head or handle. The brush should have soft nylon bristles with round heads and a wide handle for a firm grip. There are also a variety of electric or sonic brushes that work well. Call our office for a recommendation. Establishing a daily pattern and a consistent approach to your brushing technique is important to ensure that you have accomplished adequate cleaning. One easy technique involves placing the toothbrush at a 45° angle to your teeth and gently brushing in an elliptical motion. Start on the same quadrant [same side, lower or upper] each time. Brush the outside of the teeth, the inside and the biting surface. Repeat this action with the other three quadrants. When you are finished, brush you tongue. Adequate brushing should take 3-4 minutes.

There are other effective brushing methods that may be appropriate for you, depending on the condition of your teeth and gums. Bring your brush to your next check-up visit and have our hygienist review your technique.

Toothbrushing is most effective if done right after eating. It would be a wise idea to keep an extra brush at work for after lunch or snacks. Toothpaste is not necessary if you are using fluoride toothpaste at home 1-2 times a day. Just rinse with water when you are finished.

Effective toothbrushing starts with habit and routine and ends with time, diligence and good technique. Please contact our Caliber Dental office at (973) 537-7500.

A Closer Look at Bonding

It’s not unusual to feel shy about smiling if your teeth aren’t everything you would like them to be. Stained teeth might inhibit you from smiling as often or as big as you normally would. Chipped teeth and gapped teeth can have a similar effect. But with a little dental bonding, you can start smiling again with confidence.

Dental bonding is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to make cosmetic improvements to your teeth.

During a bonding procedure, a tooth-colored resin, or plastic, is bonded to your tooth with an ultraviolet “curing” light. Unlike veneers and crowns, which are sometimes used to make similar improvements, a bonding procedure usually takes just 30-60 minutes per tooth and is often complete in just one dental visit. Another advantage of dental bonding: It requires less prep work than veneers or crowns, so more of your tooth enamel remains intact.

Bonding can even be used to replace existing amalgam (silver) fillings with natural-looking composites. It’s also ideal for treating cavities in the front teeth, where aesthetics are especially important.

Keep in mind that dental bonding isn’t the cure-all for every tooth defect. Bonding doesn’t work well on back teeth or larger cavities. But for the smaller changes, bonding can have a huge impact on the way you feel about your smile.

The Smoking Gun in Oral Cancer

Most people know smoking is hazardous to your health, especially concerning the lungs and heart. Unfortunately, less attention is placed upon smoking’s negative impact on oral health. Not only does smoking leave brown stains and sticky tar deposits on teeth or dentures, it also contributes to halitosis [bad breath]. But those are the least of the issues.

Smoking is a major risk factor in periodontal [gum] disease. For example, it’s common to see red inflammation on a smoker’s palate [roof of the mouth] from the high temperatures generated by cigarettes, cigars and pipes. This is actually the inflammation of the salivary gland openings and leads to a condition called sialadenitis (reduced saliva flow due to damage to the salivary duct).

Twenty years of research show that smokers are two to three times more likely to develop periodontitis [bone loss] and tooth loss is much more prevalent in smokers than non-smokers. Studies also show a higher rate of dental implant failure for smokers.

When it comes to the cause of most oral cancers, smoking is the “smoking gun.” Of the 9,000 deaths a year in the U.S. from oral cancer, tobacco use accounts for 75% of those tragic, preventable figures.

Even second-hand smoke poses a danger to oral healthcare, especially for children. For example, smoke breathed in by children can affect the development and eruption of their permanent teeth, a process that usually begins between three and six years of age.

The good news is that “kicking the habit” greatly reduces the risk of developing oral cancer. Studies show that, after 10 years of cessation, a former smoker’s risk or oral cancer is reduced to that of non-smokers.

While nicotine creates a formidable addiction to contend with, there are a number of ways to stop smoking without experiencing extreme withdrawal symptoms. For example, nicotine patches, nicotine gum and nicotine sprays or inhalers greatly ease the suffering associated with nicotine addiction.

If you some, or want to quit smoking, call our office and schedule an appointment. We are here to help you with the oral health issues associated with smoking.

Insurance Benefit

Time flies! The end of the year will arrive in a flash and, with it, the end of your annual dental insurance benefits.

Speaking of which, are you aware that insurance companies make millions of unearned dollars each year, free income derived from patients who forgo necessary and preventive dental care? It’s a little known insurance industry secret.

Unfortunately, many individuals paying for dental insurance don’t realize their plans provide coverage up to a certain dollar amount annually. Consequently, some patients fail to schedule the dental treatment they need, deserve, and already have covered.

Since the allocated dollars cannot be rolled over year-to-year, insurance companies pocket the unclaimed revenue. In short: what patients don’t use they lose.

So, before the year ends, we want to ensure you take full advantage of any remaining benefits you or your family might still enjoy. In fact, you might even save money if, by completing your treatment before year’s end, you avoid a new deductible next year.

We want to help you secure all insurance coverage available to you on every dental procedure you schedule. If you have any questions about how much coverage remains within your insurance benefit plan, please call our office we’ll research that for you. In parallel, we can schedule you for the earliest available appointment to ensure you maximize your insurance benefits.

We look forward to seeing you again and sharing some of the many innovative methods we now offer. We aim to remain at the forefront of modern dental healthcare to ensure you always benefit from the latest technologies, professional care and superior service.

Again, please call or email us to make an appointment before the end of the year. We are scheduling November and December appointments right now.

Don’t wait until the last minute! Our end-of-year schedule usually fills up quickly.

The Aging Mouth: What is Normal, What is Not

The natural process of aging takes its toll on your teeth and mouth just as it does your body. Here are some common oral health changes you can anticipate as you age:

Enamel Wear — Chewing, cleaning and the normal aging process means your teeth will eventually wear down over time.

Darker Tooth Color — Aging dentin (the tooth’s middle layer) holds stains easier than younger dentin, making your teeth appear slightly darker.

Gum Changes — Aging gums naturally recede over time.

Cavities — Cavities around the root of the tooth are more common as you age. Any fillings you have are also aging and can weaken or crack.

Other changes to your teeth and gums aren’t normal and shouldn’t be overlooked. These symptoms could signal something more serious and are reason to see your dentist right away:

Tooth Loss — Dental cavities and gum disease are the leading culprits of tooth loss in seniors, but neither is a normal part of aging. If your teeth and gums are healthy, there’s no reason why your teeth should fall out.

Dry Mouth – As you age, you may notice a reduced flow of saliva, sometimes as a side effect of medical conditions, medications or medical treatment. Saliva is important because it lubricates the mouth and neutralizes the acids produced by plaque.

Bleeding Gums — Bleeding gums are a sign of periodontal (gum) disease, a leading cause of tooth loss in seniors. But gum disease is not an inevitable result of aging; it’s caused by the build up of plaque. Left untreated, gum disease is linked to other health concerns like arthritis and heart disease.

Regular Checkups Can Save You Thousands

If you have dental problems like tooth decay, gum disease or even oral cancer, regular dental visits give your dentist a chance to catch it early on. That’s key. Because the earlier your dentist diagnoses a problem the easier it is to treat. For example, if you have gum disease and let it go unchecked (and untreated) for too long, you may need extensive — and expensive — gum disease treatment.

Regular dental checkups allow you and your dentist to stay ahead of problems, which can translate into thousands saved.

A professional dental cleaning is also a must because it’s the only way to effectively remove tartar (hardened plaque). Even if you brush and floss regularly, that’s not enough. Besides looking unsightly (tartar is a “stain magnet” and often has a brown or yellowish tint), tartar also contains cavity-causing bacteria. Preventing the need for a mouthful of fillings every year easily adds up to thousands saved in the long run.

Perhaps one of the most important reasons to invest in regular dental exams and cleanings is that it has a positive impact on your overall health. Recent studies have shown that there’s a link between periodontal disease and heart disease; when the former is present, the latter is twice as likely.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, gum disease can have a domino effect on your health. The bacteria caused by periodontal disease can enter your bloodstream and attach to your heart’s blood vessels, causing dangerous blood clots. Another scenario is that the plaque buildup caused by periodontal disease can cause the heart’s blood vessels to swell.

In this way, regular checkups and cleanings are not only money-saving but life-saving. And that’s priceless.

Extra Cavity Protection for Kids

You might think that cavities are inevitable for kids, but in truth, they’re not. A healthy diet mixed with good oral hygiene (brushing and flossing) plus regular dental visits can prevent tooth decay. Dental sealants can reduce the risk even more. In fact, studies show that dental sealants can reduce decay in school children by 70%.

Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that are applied to the grooves of back teeth, where tooth decay is usually a problem for kids and teens. Sealants act as a barrier between the chewing surfaces by blocking pieces of food and germs.

Sealants work best on permanent molars, which usually erupt at age 12. It’s best to have sealants applied soon after the permanent molars erupt so that decay doesn’t have a chance to develop.

Because they’re so thin, dental sealants won’t have an effect on your child’s speech or make chewing difficult. Sealants can be clear or slightly tinted; either way, they’re virtually invisible to the naked eye.

Though they don’t take much time to apply, sealants can last 5-10 years. Dental sealants are some of the most comfortable, cost- and tooth-saving solutions around!

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.