40% OF KIDS WILL have at least one cavity by the time they start school, usually due to poor oral hygiene and eating and drinking lots of sugary things. It’s critical to teach kids good oral health habits early on and to help them brush their teeth until they are able to do it themselves, but it can still be tricky for them to clean out the crevices in their molars. That’s where sealants come in. How Do Sealants Work? Dental sealants are a layer of clear plastic that we brush onto the chewing surfaces of teeth to keep cavity-causing plaque and bacteria out. Sealants reduce childhood tooth decay in the back teeth by as much as 80%, which is why they’ve been such a popular treatment since the 1960s. The application process is quick, painless, and easy and can be done within a regular appointment. Who Can Get Sealants? We
DENTAL PROBLEMS LIKE gum disease and tooth decay can easily sneak up on us if we aren’t careful, which is why regular dental checkups are so essential — even when you’re pretty sure nothing is wrong. For most people, two regular appointments (consisting of professional cleaning and a dental exam) are enough to stay on top of any dental health concerns. In certain circumstances, however, it’s a good idea to come in ahead of schedule. Any Kind of Tooth Pain or Persistent Mouth Sores Any amount of tooth pain could indicate that tooth decay has reached the dental pulp. Pain is the body’s warning sign that something is wrong, and tooth pain rarely goes away on its own. An aching jaw or frequent headaches could also indicate a dental problem like a teeth-grinding habit, and the dentist can help. In most cases, mouth sores will resolve on their own, but they can
PARENTS CAN DO a few different things to give their kids’ smiles a healthy start. 1. Find an Effective Toothbrush They Like It should have soft, polished bristles and be the right size for their hands and mouths, but otherwise, they might like one with their favorite cartoon character on it. Make sure to replace it when the bristles fray! 2. Prevent Cavities With Sealants Sealants are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, particularly for kids with a history of tooth decay already. They greatly reduce the risk of childhood tooth decay. 3. Provide Teeth-Friendly Snacks Like Fruit and Cheese Whole or sliced fruit is a great mouth-healthy snack because the fibers help scrub the teeth clean. Cheese is a good source of calcium and stimulates saliva production. (We need saliva for neutralizing harmful acids and clearing away food debris.) 4. Manage Expectations for Whitening Toothpaste As much as
DAILY BRUSHING AND flossing are essential to keep a growing child’s smile healthy, but we already know that. We hopefully also know how important it is to set regular dental appointments. Cutting back on sugar intake and limiting it to mealtimes instead of little snacks throughout the day is another important way to reduce the risk of tooth decay. These aren’t the only things that go into a healthy smile, however. Certain vitamins and minerals help build and protect them. Important Vitamins for Oral Health Saliva is the first line of defense our teeth and gum have against tooth decay and gum disease, and vitamin A keeps the saliva flowing. We can get it from foods like melon, sweet potatoes, beef liver, and spinach. One powerful antioxidant that helps our bodies fight inflammation and heal is vitamin C. Not getting enough can mean gums that are more prone to bleeding and looser teeth,
SUGAR GOES BY MANY NAMES and hides where we’d least expect it. Molasses and maltose? Sugar. Corn syrup and sucrose? Sugar. Honey and agave nectar? They’re sugar too! We Consume a Jaw-Dropping Amount of Sugar Sugar in some form is added to 74 percent of packaged foods, and the average American consumes 57 POUNDS of added sugar every year. That’s a lot of fuel for the harmful bacteria living in our mouths (particularly during orthodontic treatment when there are so many extra nooks and crannies for food to stay trapped after meals and snacks). Sugar Versus Oral Health Sugar has many negative health effects, but as dental professionals, we’re focused on how it impacts our teeth. Sugar consumption is closely linked to gum disease and tooth decay, and it can eventually lead to needing treatment like fillings and root canal therapy. Cutting Back on Sugar So how can we avoid sugar
SLEEP APNEA AFFECTS over 18 million adults and up to 20% of habitually snoring children in the United States alone. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by brief, repeated interruptions to normal breathing during sleep. It can have many short and long-term effects on a person’s health (to the point of being potentially life-threatening) and is also very harmful to oral health. Sleep Apnea Comes in Different Types The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It is caused by a blocked airway, usually the tongue relaxing back until it collapses against the soft palate, which in turn collapses against the back of the throat, sealing off the airway. Less commonly, a person could have central sleep apnea, in which the brain fails to send signals to the respiratory muscles to keep breathing during sleep. Some people have a combination of both types, which is called complex sleep apnea.
MANY PEOPLE HAVE the idea that gum recession is only a concern for older people (that’s where the saying “long in the tooth” came from), but it can start at any age. While we can’t do anything about a risk factor like genetics, there are many we can control. 1. Avoid Overbrushing Overbrushing is a major risk factor for both enamel erosion and gum recession. Brushing too hard can damage the teeth and the gums. It’s time to ease up if it only takes a few months of using a toothbrush before all the bristles are bent outward. Overbrushing is why we recommend soft-bristled brushes. It’s also important to floss gently instead of snapping the floss directly onto the gums. 2. Fight Back Against Gum Disease Gum disease can destroy supporting gum tissue and bone around teeth as it progresses, which is what makes it the main cause of gum recession.
TWO OUT OF every five kids develop one or more cavity by the time they turn eleven. That makes dental caries the most common disease of childhood. The good news is that it’s very preventable when parents prioritize their kids’ dental health. We’re here to help you do that for your children by identifying the main culprits of childhood tooth decay. Oral Bacteria Love Sugar As much as kids love sugary treats, harmful bacteria living on the surfaces of their teeth love them even more. Oral bacteria eat any sugar that remains stuck to the teeth and excrete acid as a waste product. It takes about thirty minutes for saliva to neutralize these acids, so if a child is constantly snacking on something sweet, they’re giving their teeth a never-ending acid bath! Parents can fight back by swapping some of those sugary snacks for options like sliced fruits and veggies or cheese. This
DIABETES (ANY TYPE) tends to make good dental health a much more difficult goal to achieve, and poor oral health also makes diabetes harder to control. More than one in five diabetics will develop a form of gum disease, which can take a toll on overall health if untreated and even become life-threatening if the bacteria reach the bloodstream. Diabetes and Gum Disease Symptoms of gum disease to watch for include swollen, red gums, chronic bad breath, gum recession, loosening teeth, and gums prone to bleeding. Diabetes makes these more likely as well as other problems like slower healing, dry mouth, enlarged salivary glands, fungal infections, burning mouth syndrome, and worse and more frequent infections. What About Diabetes and Braces? Gum disease can also be a challenge for orthodontic treatment, no matter what’s causing it. Parents of type 1 diabetic kids should be extra careful about controlling their diabetes and promoting
THERE ARE SO many choices of toothpaste in our grocery stores. With an entire aisle of toothpaste options to choose from, we want to help our patients narrow things down a little based on their individual dental health needs. Whitening Toothpaste Choose a whitening toothpaste to remove surface stains, but remember that it can’t change a tooth’s natural color or fight deeper stains. Whitening toothpaste contains abrasives to polish the teeth and peroxide to break down surface stains. Using it twice a day can lead to visible results after several weeks, but make sure to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance! Orthodontic patients should wait until Braces Off Day before using whitening products, toothpaste included so that they don’t end up with patches of different colors where the brackets were. For Sensitive Teeth Over-the-counter tooth sensitivity toothpaste is a good option for patients with sensitive teeth. It helps rebuild enamel