Dentists have been saying for years that it helps to see children as early as possible — ideally, around the time they reach one year old. Just recently, an evidence-based study was released that backs this up: It shows that starting dental visits prior to age one actually reduces the cost of oral health care, and helps ensure that kids have pleasant dental experiences in the future.
Why do young children need to go to the dentist if they only have one or two teeth (and they’re baby teeth, to boot)? For one thing, those early dental visits get a child used to the new sights and sounds of the office: the big chair, the shiny equipment, and the friendly staff who will be taking care of them. And even at this tender age, it’s not too soon to check for signs of decay, make sure gums are healthy, and show everyone the best techniques for keeping up good oral hygiene in a growing mouth.
Still, it’s natural for a child to be a little nervous before an office visit. (Even grown-ups have been known to show some anxiety at the dental office from time to time.) To ease their way through, there are several techniques you can borrow from behavioral psychology to help make the experience as stress-free as possible.
First… just relax. Remember that kids quickly pick up on non-verbal cues that tell them something’s wrong — so try and stay positive, and keep smiling. You should prepare the little ones for what’s coming — but not too much information, please! We go to great efforts to make children feel safe and comfortable in our care, and we can tell them all they need to know in age-appropriate terms. In fact, most of your child’s first dental visit may consist of a show-and-tell about what we do and what tools we use.
Another thing to keep in mind is that parents are the major role models for their children, both in and out of the home. Kids naturally follow along — in both good and bad ways. If parents take good care of their own teeth, it helps kids develop good oral hygiene habits too. That includes brushing and flossing regularly, limiting sugary snacks between meals, and avoiding non-nutritious drinks — not only sodas, but also so-called “sports” and “energy” drinks, which can be extremely high in sugar and caffeine.
Of course, regular visits to the dentist should also be a part of every adult’s oral hygiene program. If your child sees you relaxing in the chair, it’s much easier for them to do it too. And that’s good for everybody’s health.
If you would like more information about children’s dental visits, please call our office to schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Taking the Stress Out of Dentistry for Kids.”
Caring for a young child can be overwhelming at times. Sometimes, it may feel like you can't read enough books to learn the correct way to do everything from potty training to feeding. It's also important to teach your child healthcare habits during these crucial years, so that they continue these habits for a lifetime!
Here are a few simple ways you can help your child to institute lifetime oral care habits.
- DO: Encourage your Child to Brush Every Day with Fluoride Toothpaste. Fluoride will help make your child's teeth more resistant to tooth decay. You should use a thin smear of fluoride toothpaste for children under age two and a pea-sized amount for older children. At age two, you can also begin empowering your child to brush, but make sure that you supervise and finish the job. Your child will probably need your help until around the age of six.
- DON'T: Share your Germs. Did you know that children are not born with the bacteria that cause tooth decay? In fact, the bacteria are transmitted to them from adults! You should never share a cup or spoon with your child. Also, next time you kiss your child, kiss him or her on the cheeks instead of the lips. Believe it or not, you can transmit harmful bacteria through this quick little kiss.
- DO: Limit your Child's Sugar Intake. When your child consumes sugar, the bacteria use the sugar to produce acids that dissolve tooth enamel, eventually leading to tooth decay. Saliva can neutralize those acids, but it needs enough time, 30 to 60 minutes, to work its magic. That is why it is important to limit sugar intake between meals.
- DON'T: Give Your Child a Bottle at Night. Juice, milk and even breast milk contain sugars that promote tooth decay, in particular during sleep, when less saliva is being produced. So, though it may be tempting, do not let your child go to bed with a bottle.
- DO: Take your Child to the Dentist Early. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children have their first dental visit by the age of one. Your toddler will benefit from regular dental visits, because we will monitor tooth decay, correct brushing techniques and also, most importantly, ensure that he or she is comfortable in the dental chair.
- DON'T: Allow your Child to Suck His or Her Thumb Past Age Three. Thumb sucking for comfort is a very normal behavior for babies and toddlers. However, if your child constantly sucks his or her thumb past the age of three, it can affect teeth alignment and jaw development.
If you would like more information about oral care for your child, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dentistry and Oral Health for Children.”
You've probably brushed your teeth every day since early childhood when your parents handed you your first toothbrush. But do you really know if you're doing it effectively and removing disease causing bacterial plaque or biofilm? Let's take a look at the basics of tooth brushing.
What is the goal of brushing and flossing your teeth? While it is true that brushing your teeth freshens your breath and removes stains from the surfaces of your teeth, the principal goal of tooth brushing is to remove dental bacterial plaque. This biofilm grows in the nooks and crannies of your teeth, and especially at the gum line — regardless of what you eat or drink. If left on your teeth, this bacterial film can cause gingivitis (inflammation of your gums). It can progress to periodontal disease, affecting the supporting bone of your teeth and even result in tooth loss. This means that flossing should also be an important part of your daily dental hygiene routine to remove plaque from the protected areas between your teeth.
Can you actually brush too much? More is not always better and can be damaging. We advise you to use a soft brush and to brush gently. It does not take force to remove plaque, and using a toothbrush too vigorously can damage your gums and cause them to recede (shrink away from your teeth), causing sensitivity and tooth wear. It takes between 12 and 24 hours for plaque to form on your teeth, so you don't need to brush more than twice a day and floss once a day.
How do you know when you've done a good job? A good test is that your teeth should feel like you've just had a professional cleaning. Your tongue is a great evaluator — just feel for smoothness at the gum line.
Is a powered toothbrush better than a manual one? An evidence-based study comparing all the research available found little difference between power and manual toothbrushes. The conclusion was that some powered toothbrushes with a rotation-oscillation action achieve a modest reduction in plaque and gingivitis compared to manual toothbrushes. But as we say, “it's not the brush, it's the hand that holds it.”
Come to our office for a demonstration. Any brush, whether electric or hand-powered, requires professional demonstration and training so that you know how to remove plaque correctly. Bring your toothbrush with you on your next visit to our office, so we can see your brushing technique and make sure you are doing it correctly for the most efficient plaque removal. And don't be embarrassed — nobody really knows how to brush effectively until they're shown!
Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about tooth brushing and oral hygiene. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Manual vs Powered Toothbrushes.”
If you've lived for many years with crooked teeth, you may think that your teeth will be this way forever. Believe it or not, one out of every five orthodontic patients is an adult and 75% of adults have some form of malocclusion. You're never too old to improve your smile, and here a few reasons why you should consider orthodontic treatment:
- Self-Esteem: An attractive smile contributes to your confidence and self-image, and this is important at any age. Research has shown that, logically, the better you feel about your looks, the better you feel about yourself. You might not realize it, but those crooked teeth can cause you to be self-conscious, thus smiling and talking less. Studies have even demonstrated that orthodontic treatments can enhance your career opportunities.
- Longevity: Though you can always expect a certain amount of wear and tear to your teeth from aging, properly aligned teeth will function better over time. If you are prone to gum disease, your problems can worsen with poorly aligned teeth. Not only is it more difficult to clean around crooked teeth, but we often see gum recession around poorly positioned or crowded teeth.
- Options: If you choose to explore orthodontic treatment, you will see that much has changed since you were a teenager. Instead of traditional metal braces, we can sometimes use clear or colorless braces that are less noticeable. Some braces can even be attached to the back of your teeth. You may also be a candidate for clear orthodontic aligners, which use a sequence of clear, removable and custom-fitted trays to gradually straighten your teeth.
If you're considering orthodontic treatment, you should schedule an appointment with our office, so that we can conduct a thorough examination, discuss your options and recommend a course of treatment. We'll also make sure that your teeth and gums are healthy, an important requirement to successfully straighten your teeth.
If you would like more information about adult orthodontics, please contact us for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”
In a healthy tooth, a coating of enamel protects the crown — the part above the gum line — and a layer of cementum protects the tooth root below the gum line. Enamel and cementum are inert (nonliving) substances that do not respond to stimuli such as heat or cold; however, dentin, the living tissue below them, does. Dentin contains numerous microscopic tubules that readily transmit stimuli toward the nerve-filled center of the tooth (pulp tissue). Loss of protective enamel or cementum leaves dentin exposed to all sorts of stimuli in the oral environment, which can trigger “dentinal hypersensitivity” — anything from a mild twinge to shooting pain.
Fortunately, there are many options for treating hypersensitivity. The key to selecting the most appropriate one(s) is determining the cause(s). Some of the more common reasons for sensitivity due to dentin exposure include:
- Enamel erosion caused by an “acid attack” related to external (extrinsic) causes — i.e., consumption of acidic beverages/food — or internal causes — i.e., regurgitation of stomach acids due to gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD] or the eating disorder bulimia
- Using an overly abrasive brush or toothpaste, brushing incorrectly or too frequently, or brushing too soon after an “acid attack” — all of which can result in a loss of enamel
- Tooth decay (dental caries or cavities)
- Tooth fracture or chipping: tooth grinding (bruxism) is a common cause
- Worn fillings
- Gum recession, due to age or improper tooth brushing, that exposes the tooth root
- Gum disease, which can result in gum recession
Sensitivity can also occur following a procedure like treating a cavity. Normally it subsides within a couple of weeks or so but if it continues there may be another underlying cause.
Whatever the source(s) of your discomfort, our office can get to the bottom of it and recommend an effective course of treatment that meets your personal needs!
If you would like more information about tooth sensitivity, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sensitive Teeth.”
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