Summer is full of awesome activities, including swimming, days at the lake or the zoo, camping trips, vacations, and long lazy days of reading. Given the nice weather and busy schedule of activities in the summer, it’s pretty easy for you or your kids to let dental habits slip.
No matter what your summer plans are, brush up on these dental care tips to make sure every member of the family ends the summer with healthy, beautiful teeth.
Adapt to Loss of Routine
The first and most basic threat to your dental health, your children’s especially, is the loss of routine. When kids are in school, it’s easy to remember to brush right before bed and right after breakfast because these things happen at the same time every day.
During the summer, routine can sometimes go out the window, and brushing may get skipped with late night barbecues and visits to Grandma’s and late wake-ups. Try to adapt to routine loss by planning a new summer routine so kids still at least wake up at the same time.
To remind yourself to brush your teeth, keep an alarm on your phone that goes off mid-morning and in the evening. This alarm could also help you remember to ask your kids whether they’ve brushed their teeth. Keep new extra brushes in your car just in case you forget brushes for a camping trip or a visit to family.
Dental cavities are one of the most common health conditions to affect children. Encouraging your child to brush and floss and taking them to the dentist for regular checkups will go a long way towards reducing their risk of cavities. But often, even these methods aren’t enough.
Your child’s back molars are particularly at risk for decay due to the deep grooves in their chewing surfaces. Since children are not always very thorough when brushing their teeth, plaque and food particles that accumulate in these grooves don’t always get removed. Bacteria then accumulate, leading to decay. Luckily, you can help your child keep food particles and bacteria out of these grooves: invest in dental sealants.
Dental Sealants: An Overview
Dental sealants are plastic-like overlays that form a barrier between your child’s molar and the inside of their mouth. The sealant material starts off as a liquid. Once it’s painted onto the chewing surface of the tooth, it hardens, becoming impervious to bacteria, saliva, and food particles. The sealant keeps bacteria from accumulating in the tooth’s crevices, so cavities don’t form.
Sealants are most often placed on the six and 12-year molars, since these teeth have the deepest grooves. It’s best to have them applied as soon as possible after these teeth erupt. So, you should have sealants applied to your six-year-old’s new molars as soon as they appear. When he or she is about 12 years old and four more teeth come in, you can then have sealants applied to these teeth.
The Application Process for Dental Sealants
Though children are sometimes a bit apprehensive about having sealants applied, the process is quick and completely painless. The dentist will start by cleaning the tooth to remove any bacteria and debris from its surface. A drill or file may be used to roughen up the surface of the tooth. Since only the very surface of the tooth is filed away, your child won’t need anesthesia. All your child will feel is a little vibration.
Once the tooth is clean and filed, the dentist will apply an etching gel to the chewing surface of the tooth. This helps ensure the sealant material adheres properly. After the etching liquid has a minute or so to work, the dentist rinses it away and dries off the tooth. Then, he or she applies the sealing material to the chewing surface of the molar using either a brush or a tiny syringe. The dentist uses a curing light to harden the sealant, and the process is complete.
Your child may experience a sour or unpleasant taste in his or her mouth after having sealants applied, but your child can eat and drink normally as soon as the procedure is over.
The Effectiveness of Dental Sealants
The sooner dental sealants are applied to a new molar, the more protection they offer. The CDC has reported that children with sealants have less than one third as many cavities as children without sealants. Furthermore, sealants are said to protect against 80% of cavities in the two years after they are applied.
Sealants don’t last forever. They typically fall out on their own within about 10 years. By this time, your child’s tooth brushing habits should have improved, so their risk of developing cavities in the deep grooves of their molars will be lower. If the sealants become damaged or fall out before your dentist feels your child is ready to let them go, they are easy to repair or replace.
Common Risks and Concerns Associated With Dental Sealants
Dental sealants are incredibly safe and do not cause any side effects. They have been used since the 1960s, and their safety and effectiveness have been thoroughly evaluated by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, as well as other agencies.
Some parents worry about the safety of dental sealants because they contain Bisphenol A, or BPA. This compound made headlines in 2008 when studies suggested it may increase the risk of certain cancers. However, the FDA states that BPA is safe at the low levels to which humans are frequently exposed, and dental sealants only contain a tiny, tiny amount of BPA. Your child would be exposed to more BPA when touching a receipt than when getting sealants.
Dental sealants present essentially zero risk to your child, but they will benefit him or her for life by preventing cavities from forming during childhood. However, since sealants only protect the areas to which they are applied, you’ll still need to make sure your child brushes thoroughly, sees the dentist for regular cleanings and checkups, and consumes a healthy diet that’s low in sugar.
Make an appointment with your child’s dentist to learn more about sealants and other preventative dental care. Contact Apollo Dentistry, and we can help you keep your child’s teeth healthy.
Everybody wants to beat their bad habits for a better quality of life. Some bad habits have several unknown side effects. You’ll be surprised to learn that some classic bad habits, like nail biting and snacking, have a profound negative effect on your oral health.
Here’s what you need to know about how some bad habits affect your teeth. Knowing the potential for damage can give you another reason to give up a bad habit for good.
Chewing Your Nails
This is bad habit for more reasons that just your dental health, but your teeth can be a motivating reason to quit. Biting your nails continually can have these negative oral side effects:
Your teeth can get chipped. Your nail is not strong enough to chip your teeth, but your other teeth are. When biting through a nail, your teeth can strike together forcefully. Each strike weakens your enamel, and you could end up chipping your tooth. You may even need a filling to repair the damage.
It increases the risk of tooth loss. The pressure from continued biting can contribute to shortened roots, especially if your teeth are already stressed with orthodontics.
Nail biting can lead to bruxism. Bruxism, or tooth grinding, comes from the same mechanism of clenching and biting to relieve stress. Nail biters, especially those who do it as a method for coping with anxiety, are more liking to grind their teeth. More healthful stress relieving activities will help with this problem.
You have an increased risk of infection. Your nails become jagged and sharp from the ragged edge your tooth leaves after biting. A slip of your finger can cut the gums, introducing the bacteria under your nails to your gum tissue. A painful abscess can result.
Talk to your dentist about ways to break your (or your child’s) nail-biting habit to save yourself from years of pain and stress to your teeth down the road.
Chewing on ice can cause injury to your teeth and gums. Ice is hard enough to break your teeth! Many people love the tough crunch of ice, especially in the summer. If you need a cold crunch, try a carrot instead of ice.
If you can’t shake the habit of chewing ice, you may want to talk to your doctor. Sometimes, craving ice can be a sign of dangerously low iron levels.
Using Your Teeth as Tools
People use their teeth for things other than chewing food on a daily basis; you’ve probably used your teeth to tear open mail, open pop cans, or bite on tape. Some people also use their teeth to pry open seafood shells, bite on wire, hold pins, or crack open nuts.
All of these actions are harmful to your teeth. Nuts have a rough exterior, and every time you use your teeth to open one, the rough exterior sands away some of your enamel. Holding pins with your teeth can actually leave indentations after years of sewing. Opening pop cans and ripping tape can actually misalign your jaw or break your teeth.
If you have a bad habit of using your teeth as tools, invest in a keychain-style multi-tool to take with you wherever you go. That way, you have a small knife to help you with packaging and clam shells.
Snacking Throughout the Day
Most people think that by brushing and flossing daily, they are completely safe from tooth decay. However, persistent snacking all day long can speed the development of dental caries. You might have thought cutting out snacks would help with weight loss or mindfulness, but minimizing your snacking will also protect your teeth.
Every time you eat, residual sugars from the foods you consume remain in your mouth. Bacteria in your mouth feed on these sugars and produce acid as they metabolize it. The acid is what causes your teeth to demineralize.
If you eat enough at meal times, your teeth are only exposed to this acidic process a few times per day. If you are careful to brush after meals (at least after breakfast and dinner), your teeth stay mostly clean all day long. Snacking ruins the beauty of this process. Instead, the benefits of mealtimes and brushing schedules are quickly washed away by the continual wash of sugar in the mouth.
If you must snack, choose tooth-friendly options like vegetables, cheese, or unsweetened yogurt. Avoid common snack foods like crackers, breads, candy, dry cereal, or baked goods. Even if crackers have no sugar added, the enzymes in your saliva will break down the carbohydrates into simpler sugars as you chew.
For more information on how daily habits can help or hurt the health of your teeth, contact Apollo Dental Center. We can help patients of all ages replace the bad habits with good ones that will lead to long-lasting oral health.
Understandably, many people are nervous about visiting the dentist. They’re afraid of the discomfort they may feel during their dental procedure.
One of the most common solutions to dental anxiety is a chemical compound called nitrous oxide. This compound is also known as laughing gas. That’s because it takes the form of a gas at room temperature, and it makes some people feel giddy when they inhale it.
If your dentist has recommended nitrous oxide for your next procedure, you may wonder what to expect. Many parents wonder whether nitrous oxide is safe for their children. Discover the answers to your questions by learning more about nitrous oxide and its use in dentistry below.
History of Nitrous Oxide
Nitrous oxide was first synthesized in 1772 by the chemist Joseph Priestley. Medical professionals soon began studying its potential impact on medicine. In the book Researches, Chemical and Philosophical, published in 1800, Humphry Davy noted that nitrous oxide could relieve patients during surgery.
In 1844, Horace Wells became the first dentist to use nitrous oxide on patients. Other dentists weren’t convinced by his public demonstration and were initially skeptical about his results. However, Wells’ colleague Gardner Quincy Colton successfully used nitrous oxide on more than 25,000 patients. Other dentists began to accept nitrous oxide’s safety and effectiveness, and its use spread throughout dentistry.
What Nitrous Oxide Is Used For
In dentistry, nitrous oxide is used to relax patients during basic dental procedures such as dental fillings. It is occasionally used for routine cleanings for patients with severe dental anxiety.
Nitrous oxide is sometimes used in hospitals as well. It isn’t strong enough for major surgeries. However, medical personnel might give patients nitrous oxide to prepare them for a more powerful anesthetic.
Nitrous oxide is especially helpful for children, people with special needs, or anyone with dental anxiety. Many patients can withstand minor procedures without nitrous oxide, however. That’s because the dentist already numbs the areas in their mouths that he or she works on.
How Nitrous Oxide Works
To administer nitrous oxide, a dentist places a mask over a patient’s nose. The mask contains a mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen that patients breathe in. The dentist can adjust the nitrous oxide concentration to fit the patient’s needs.
Nitrous oxide has several interesting effects on the brain. It blocks pain-signaling neurons, decreasing pain. It also increases the activity of GABA receptors, decreasing anxiety. Finally, it leads to dopamine release, causing patients to feel content and even euphoric.
Nitrous oxide might make it seem like time passes more quickly. It might also make patients less likely to gag with dental instruments in their mouths. Plus, it can relax patients and make them less likely to move during the procedure. This can make it easier for the dentist to perform the procedure.
While all patients feel calmer under nitrous oxide, the effects of nitrous oxide differ from person to person. Some patients feel giddy and even laugh out loud. Others feel relaxed and light-headed. Some patients’ arms and legs feel heavy while others experience tingling in their arms and legs.
Nitrous oxide isn’t as strong as other sedatives. Most patients do not fall asleep and can still talk with dental staff. However, they may not remember everything that happened during the procedure.
After the procedure is complete, the dentist turns off the nitrous oxide and keeps the oxygen on for a few minutes. When the dentist takes the mask off, the nitrous oxide will have already exited the patient’s system.
Safety of Nitrous Oxide
Fortunately, nitrous oxide is considered safe, even for children. It is well tolerated, does not cause allergic reactions, and does not have any lingering effects. In fact, dentists might even allow patients to drive themselves home after using nitrous oxide.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recognizes nitrous oxide as safe for children. However, the dentist should ask for parental permission before administering nitrous oxide on a child.
About 0.5% of patients experience nausea from nitrous oxide. To help you avoid nausea, your dentist may ask you to avoid eating a heavy meal two hours before your procedure. Your dentist will also ask you about any medical conditions you have and any medications you’re taking.
Nitrous oxide may not work for patients who have a congested nose or problems breathing through their nose. It may also not be the best choice for claustrophobic patients who feel uncomfortable wearing a mask. Nitrous oxide may not be safe for pregnant women.
If you’re undergoing a dental procedure with nitrous oxide, you don’t have anything to worry about. Nitrous oxide will help you feel comfortable and calm and can reduce the pain you feel. If you have questions and concerns about nitrous oxide, talk to your dentist.
If you need a dental examination or procedure, call Apollo Dental Center. We treat patients of all ages with gentle, skilled dental care.
With winter comes the cold, rotavirus, and flu season. Like most others, you probably muddle through these illnesses with cough syrup, fever-reducing medicine, hot drinks, and plenty of rest. When you get sick, taking care of your teeth is probably the last thing on your mind.
But protecting your teeth is actually very important when you’re ill, because many of the home remedies people use for common illness can actually be harmful to your teeth. Here’s a guide for helping you keep your teeth healthy when sickness strikes.
Keep Drinking Water
If you’re vomiting or struggling with sinus pain or a sore throat, it’s tough to get enough fluids. Many people try to overcome the unpleasantness of swallowing by drinking soda, juice, or sweet tea. Those who have colds often drink orange juice for vitamin C, while those who are throwing up drink juice or sports drink to replace electrolytes and sooth the stomach.
All of these drinks are acidic, and when you sip them all day instead of drinking water, your teeth get prolonged exposure to this acid, which weakens your enamel. To avoid this, make an effort to hydrate with water. If you must drink something else, try to drink water afterward to help rinse the acid and sugar from your teeth.
Drinking water also helps offset dry mouth, which can come when you have a stuffy nose or you take decongestants. Breathing through the mouth dries out your teeth, making it easier for bacteria to remain on your enamel, so it’s important to rinse your teeth often and well.
Don’t Procrastinate Brushing
When you’re sick, you spend more time resting. Your daily routine is thrown off, so instead of brushing in the morning, after your morning meal, or before leaving for work, you just stay in bed. Getting up from your lethargic rest might seem like a chore, but procrastinating your tooth care is terrible for your teeth.
If possible, it’s actually better to brush a little more frequently than usual when you’re sick. When you’re ill, you speak and swallow less often. These actions keep saliva active in your mouth as you move your tongue. When you’re not moving your mouth, bacteria multiplies and settles more easily. To keep your teeth clean and germ-free in this situation, brush three times a day instead of two.
If you have trouble remembering to brush your teeth, set a reminder on your phone, or ask a family member to remind you throughout the day. It’s important that you provide your teeth with the supplemental help they need while you rest.
Rinse, Rinse, Rinse
Normally, you might not even think about rinsing your mouth out periodically during the day. When you’re eating, brushing, and flossing, there’s not a real need to. But when you’re sick, you should take the time to rinse your mouth after:
Taking sugary cough syrup or pink stomach medication. While medicine helps with sickness symptoms, it can still be like candy to your teeth. Follow all medications with water to help keep your teeth clean.
Vomiting. Almost nothing is more harmful to your teeth than the corrosive contents of your stomach. You might feel like immediately brushing your teeth after you throw up, but you should first rinse your mouth with water. If you can stand the taste, mix a little baking soda into a glass of water and gargle with it. The baking soda helps to neutralize the acid. Brushing before rinsing can actually increase the damage to your enamel, so never forget to rinse—your enamel will suffer.
Sucking on a cough drop or lozenge. Many of these products contain sugar. If you can, choose sugar-free versions, but just to stay on the safe side, rinsing will help rinse sugar off your teeth.
Rinsing is a powerful tool to help you keep your teeth healthy, even when you vomit or need to take symptom-reducing medications.
Keep Things Clean
Washing your hands and wiping door handles and other frequently touched objects is part of preventing the spread of infection. You should take the same care to keep your mouth clean. The more care you take with your dental hygiene, the better your teeth will fare. Try:
Removing and replacing your toothbrush after your symptoms pass. This is especially important if you keep your brush in close proximity to other brushes in the bathroom cupboard.
Using mouthwash during the day to help keep your mouth fresh and clean. Because some medications can make your mouth dry, using mouthwash between brushing can help replenish tooth moisture and fight bacteria.
Gargling with salt water. You’ll want to make sure you do not swallow the salt water, but salt rinses have anti-bacterial properties and can help ease tooth and throat pain that comes with illness.
Keeping your mouth and environment clean can help you overcome your illness more quickly, and retain your bright smile while you’re at it. For more information on healthy oral hygiene ideas to use when you’re sick, contact us at Apollo Dental Center.
Good dental health starts in infancy. Even before your baby’s first teeth start erupting, it’s important to take good care of his or her gums in order to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems. One of the most common problems dentists see in young children’s teeth is a condition that’s called as baby bottle tooth decay.
What Is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
A child with baby bottle tooth decay has extensive decay that affects a number of his or her baby teeth. It most often affects the front teeth, but it can arise in the other teeth or spread to them over time. The decay starts as small cavities, but it quickly progresses to the point that large portions of the enamel become eroded and pitted.
What Causes This Condition?
Baby bottle tooth decay gets its name from the fact that it’s usually caused by putting your baby to bed with his or her bottle. The milk, juice, or formula in the bottle contains sugars that sit on the teeth all night. These sugars feed oral bacteria, which release acids that break down the tooth enamel.
In addition to putting your baby to bed with a bottle, there are a few other practices that can lead to or contribute to the condition:
Frequently dipping a pacifier into sugar water or juice before giving it to your baby
Allowing your toddler to walk around with a sippy cup of juice or milk all day
Using a bottle of milk or juice as a “pacifier” for a baby instead of sticking to scheduled feeding times throughout the day
Some children have softer tooth enamel than others and are more susceptible to tooth decay. However, most children will develop some decay if parents use the practices above. There are also a few practices that don’t exactly cause decay, but when combined with the habits above, tend to make it worse:
Sharing saliva with your baby via a spoon or bottle (your saliva contains bacteria, and when you share it, you pass on these bacteria, increasing the risk of decay)
Failing to brush your baby’s teeth or wipe his or her gums after feeding
Feeding a lot of unhealthy, sugary snacks to your toddler
If you avoid the practices above, your little one will get off to a much healthier start.
How Do You Know If Your Baby Has Tooth Decay?
If you’re worried that your child may be developing some decay, the best thing you can do is make an appointment with a pediatric dentist. In fact, the ADA recommends that all children see the dentist for the first time before their first birthday. The dentist should be able to tell whether your little one is experiencing decay just by looking at the teeth. If there is some decay, they may need to take x-rays to determine the extent.
How Is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay Treated?
Some parents assume that since the decay is in the baby teeth, there’s really reason to treat it; the teeth will fall out anyways. However, this is not the case at all. Your child needs his or her baby teeth to eat properly, to speak properly, and to guide the adult teeth into place.
Treatment will depend on the extent of the decay. Smaller cavities may be filled with composite resin or metal amalgam, much like your dentist would fill your own cavities. Teeth that are badly decayed are typically covered in crowns to protect them from future damage.
How Can You Break The Bad Habits That Cause Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
If you’re worried about your baby’s oral health because you have been putting him or her to bed with a bottle or engaging in some of the other practices described above, the most important thing to do is make a dental appointment. Here are some specific tips to help break the habits that lead to decay.
Bottles at Bedtime
If your baby has a hard time going to bed without a bottle, try weaning him or her off of it slowly. Replace the milk or juice with half water. Then, after a few nights, only put water in the bottle. The bottle will eventually become less interesting to your child, and he or she should start falling asleep without it. You may have a few nights of crying, but remember that what you’re doing is best for your child’s health in the long run.
Sippy cups put the liquid your toddler drinks right into contact with his or her front teeth. Wean your little one off of them and onto a normal cup as soon as possible. Use a cup with a lid and a straw if you’re worried about spills. The straw deposits the liquid behind the teeth, rather than on top of them.
If your baby won’t take a pacifier that has not been dipped in honey or juice, perhaps it is time to wean him or her off of the pacifier. You could also try switching to a different style of pacifier. Different children prefer different shapes and sizes.
If you have any further questions or concerns about baby bottle tooth decay, or if your child’s first birthday is approaching, make an appointment with a pediatric dentist. Regular dental checkups are the best way to ensure your child’s teeth stay in great shape.
If one of your teeth develops a cavity, your dentist will typically remove the decayed material and fill the hole with amalgam or composite resin. This filling helps prevent decay from progressing, protecting what remains of your tooth. Getting a filling is usually a simple, pain-free procedure since it’s performed under local anesthetic. However, it is important that you know what to expect in the days after a getting a filling—and how to protect the filled tooth in years to come.
What to Expect After a Filling
Your mouth will generally still be numb when you leave the dentist’s office. Within one to three hours, the numbness should wear off. You should not feel any serious pain, but don’t be alarmed if the filled tooth is suddenly sensitive to heat and cold. This is a normal side effect of having a tooth filled; it occurs because all of the drilling and filling has irritated the nerves in your tooth. If the sensitivity does not subside within a few days, contact your dentist.
It’s also normal for your gums to feel a bit sore after the procedure. This may be due to the anesthetic injections or the dental tools rubbing against the inside of your mouth. If the soreness is bothering you, try rinsing your mouth with some salt water or taking an over-the-counter pain reliever.
If you feel like you’re biting down on something hard or you notice a sharp point on the filling, contact your dentist. Though your dentist aims to polish and smooth all fillings after they are placed, there are times when he or she may miss a spot. It should only take a minute to smooth out the rough spots so you can eat and speak comfortably again.
Caring for Your Filled Tooth
Dental fillings can last for decades—but only if you properly care for them and the teeth around them. Now that you have a filling, there are a few things you need to do to prevent it from loosening or cracking, and to prevent the tooth around it from developing additional decay.
Brush and Floss Regularly and Carefully
As always, you should be thoroughly brushing your teeth twice per day and flossing daily. When you brush, pay a little extra attention to the tooth with a filling. This helps ensure that the area around the filling remains free of plaque and oral bacteria so you don’t experience decay around the filling.
If the filling is on the edge of your tooth, be very careful when flossing. You don’t want to catch the filling and cause it to break. Use extra-thin floss and guide it gently between your teeth; don’t force it.
Avoid Sticky and Overly Crunchy Foods
You don’t have to make any serious dietary changes now that you have a filling. However, you should avoid chewing on hard candy and ice and cracking nuts with your teeth. Also steer clear of sticky caramels and taffy. If you do eat these foods, suck on them. Overly hard foods could crack a filling, while sticky ones could loosen it, paving the way for decay to set in around it.
Use a Fluoride Rinse
Ask your dentist if it’s a good idea for you to use a fluoride rinse after your tooth is filled. This is often recommended for patients who have large fillings and those who have really struggled with decay in the past. The fluoride will help harden your enamel, which should keep the tooth around the filling strong. Fluoride rinses are available over-the-counter and you typically use them once a day after brushing.
Signs Your Filling is Failing
Even with proper dental care and the tips above, it is possible for a filling to crack, loosen, or fall out completely. The longer a filling has been in your mouth, the more likely these issues become. The following are signs that your filling may need to be replaced.
Pain When Biting Down
If you suddenly start feeling pain in the filled tooth when you bite down on something, this could indicate that the filling is cracked or that decay has begun to develop around it. Contact your dentist, and in the meantime, avoid chewing on the painful side of your mouth.
Hard Material Breaking Off
If you find a small piece of white or silver-colored material in your mouth after brushing, flossing, or eating, this could be part of a filling that has broken off. Keep in mind that when fillings are placed between your teeth, you can’t always see them fully. So contact your dentist, even if you don’t see a place where the filling is broken.
There are many possible causes for tooth sensitivity, from gum disease, to loose fillings, to dental abscesses. If your teeth suddenly become sensitive to hot and cold years after having a filling put in place, see your dentist to ensure that whatever the problem is, you receive the proper treatment before it gets worse.
Dental fillings are quite common. There’s no better method for fixing cavities, but they do require some ongoing precautions and monitoring. If you have concerns about a filling in your mouth, schedule an appointment with a dentist in your area.
You’ve probably seen it listed as an ingredient on toothpaste, and you may have even heard some fear-mongering arguments as to its safety — but how much do you really know about fluoride? Like calcium and magnesium, this naturally occurring mineral is essential for healthy teeth.
There’s a lot of misinformation circulating around fluoride, but experts, including the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Centers for Disease control, all agree that in the correct amounts, fluoride is not only safe but incredibly important for your child’s dental health.
What Is Fluoride?
It’s important to note that fluoride is not a drug or medication. Rather, it is a mineral that is naturally found in rocks, volcanic emissions, water, and many foods. Like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, it is an essential component of your teeth and bones.
As the dental health benefits of fluoride became apparent in the 1940s, many municipalities began adding fluoride to their water supplies. Now, most tap water in the United States is supplemented with fluoride. This is akin to iodine being added to salt.
How Does Fluoride Keep Your Child’s Teeth Healthy?
Fluoride is important for children and adults at any age, but it’s most important for children under the age of 16. At this time, your child’s primary and permanent teeth are erupting. As they erupt, exposure to fluoride helps harden their enamel, making them more resistant to cavities and decay. Children who receive enough fluoride when they are young will have a lower risk of tooth decay and tooth loss throughout the rest of their lives.
What Effects Has Fluoride Had on the Population’s Dental Health?
Adding fluoride to the drinking water has greatly reduced the occurrence of tooth decay in the United States. In one study, patients in counties where water was not fluoridated needed 33.4% more fillings, extractions, and root canals than patients in nearby counties where fluoride was added to the water.
It’s estimated that every $1 spent on fluoridating the water supply saves residents $38 in dental treatment costs. You, too, can save on dental costs by ensuring your child gets enough fluoride.
How Do You Make Sure Your Child Is Getting Enough Fluoride?
Most children will get enough fluoride if they are given fluoridated tap water to drink. If you give your child bottled water instead, make sure that the brand you purchase contains supplemental fluoride; some do not. If you feed your infant or toddler baby formula, prepare it with tap water rather than with distilled or non-fluoridated bottled water.
If you have a home water filtration system, it may remove some or all of the fluoride from your tap water. Charcoal and carbon filters and water softeners do not typically remove fluoride, but reverse osmosis and steam distillation systems do. If you have a filtration system that you suspect removes fluoride from your water, your dentist may recommend supplemental fluoride treatments for your child. These come in the following forms.
Fluoride Mouth Rinses
These are available in both over-the-counter and stronger, prescription-strength forms. Your dentist will recommend one that’s the correct strength for your child based on the condition of their teeth and the amount of fluoride they believe they are being exposed to already from water and fluoridated toothpaste. Generally, your child will need to rinse their mouth with the solution once or twice a day after brushing.
In-Office Fluoride Treatments
Your dentist may administer periodic treatments during which your child’s teeth are exposed to a high level of fluoride for a short period of time. This treatment is painless; your child just has to bite down on a tray for a few minutes.
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry recommend using fluoridated toothpastes for babies and toddlers — whether or not your water also contains fluoride. Just make sure you only use a pea-sized amount of the toothpaste and supervise your child’s brushing routine so that they don’t swallow too much.
Are There Risks Involved With Fluoride Treatments and Supplements?
Those who speak out against fluoridation of the water supply often cite the risks of excessive fluoride exposure. It’s true that exposure to very high levels of fluoride can lead to a condition called skeletal fluorosis, in which the bones accumulate too much fluoride and become brittle.
However, this level of exposure is very rare and typically only occurs in a factory setting. The amount of fluoride contained in the United States’ tap water and toothpastes is not anywhere near high enough to cause these effects in children.
Some children do experience a mild side effect called dental fluorosis if they have a little too much fluoride exposure. This condition causes white spots to appear on the teeth. However, it does not harm the health of your child’s teeth or cause any pain. If you’re careful to minimize the amount of toothpaste that your child swallows and only use supplemental fluoride rinses as recommended by your dentist, the chance of dental fluorosis will be quite low.
Fluoride is absolutely essential for excellent dental health, and making sure your child gets enough is one of the best things you can do for their teeth. If you have any concerns about fluoride and your child’s dental health, speak with a pediatric dentist.
The winter season may be filled with holidays, but the coldest months of the year also cause health challenges you might not experience at any other time. In our last blog, “4 Ways to Be Nice to Your Teeth This Holiday Season,” we provided strategies for protecting your teeth from common holiday hazards.
In this blog, we discuss how the winter weather itself may affect your teeth. Below we list six reasons why you may experience more frequent or intense tooth sensitivity over the winter.
Brushing your teeth is an essential way to maintain your oral health. However, brushing your teeth incorrectly can contribute to certain oral conditions, including sensitivity. When you brush too aggressively or with a stiff-bristled brush, you can wear down the outer layer of enamel.
When the enamel thins, the inner layers of your teeth become exposed, causing pain and sensitivity.
You may resort to short, aggressive brushing sessions more often in the winter, leading to more frequent sensitivity. Some people may have to shorten the time spent on the
ir hygiene routines to ensure they have the time to commute on winter roads.
Give yourself plenty of time to brush, and brush gently. Consult with your dentist to determine whether you’re using the right brush type for your mouth.
Many individuals who experience tooth sensitivity have pain related to a specific type of stimuli, such as extreme temperatures. In the winter, you may drink more hot beverages overall. Warm beverages can exacerbate existing sensitivity.
Additionally, when you drink a hot beverage while outside during the winter, you’re more likely to feel tooth sensitivity. The larger temperature difference irritates exposed nerve endings, causing more intense pain.
As you visit friends and family for the holidays, you want to look your best. You may use at-home tooth whitening to brighten your smile for family pictures and your company Christmas party. However, you should always exercise restraint when whitening your teeth and do so under the care of a dentist.
Some whitening solutions that you can buy at the drugstore contain harsh chemicals that may weaken your enamel, causing tooth sensitivity.
Before you begin a whitening regimen, discuss your options with your dentist. He or she may recommend an in-office procedure, refer you to a specialist, or prescribe a high-quality whitening solution for you to use at home. Follow the whitening solution’s instructions and contact your dentist if you notice an increase in your tooth sensitivity.
Not all tooth sensitivity stems directly from the condition of your tooth enamel. Pain in the areas around your teeth can also cause sensitivity. For example, jaw conditions can cause sensitivity.
In the winter, you may be more susceptible to colds, flus, and sinus infections. These seasonal illnesses can all contribute to sensitive teeth because they inflame the maxillary sinus.
If you notice sensitivity that mainly affects your upper front teeth and occurs at the same time as a head cold or case of the flu, your illness may be causing the sensitivity. The maxillary sinus sits directly above your upper front teeth and, when the sinus becomes inflamed, may put pressure on that area.
Many winter holidays feature rich, sugary foods. While these foods may encourage holiday cheer, they also increase your risk of tooth decay. Even small cavities can expose the nerves in your teeth, causing tooth sensitivity.
While it’s important to clean your teeth after a sugary treat, don’t brush immediately. Instead, drink a glass of water or chew sugar-free gum to help remove some of the remaining particles. Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth.
Right after you eat acidic and sugary foods, your tooth enamel is at its weakest. Brushing your teeth during this time period can have the same negative effects as aggressive brushing or over-whitening.
If you already have tooth sensitivity, you likely experience discomfort whenever your teeth become cold. In the coldest parts of winter, however, the low temperature itself can cause tooth damage that contributes to sensitivity.
Like most materials, your tooth enamel expands when warm and contracts when cold. When exposed to extreme cold or to short intervals of extreme cold and warmth, your teeth may experience thermal stress. In serious cases, thermal stress leaves tiny cracks in your enamel as it contracts, exposing the inner layer of your teeth and causing sensitivity.
If you have wintertime tooth sensitivity, schedule an appointment with Apollo Dental Center. It’s important to identify whether gum disease or tooth decay are contributing to your discomfort. Once we determine the causes of your tooth sensitivity, our team can recommend strategies to decrease your pain and reduce the risk of future sensitivity.
In many cases, a simple step like changing your brushing practices can make your teeth stronger and less sensitive, whatever the weather.
When you go into your dentist’s office, you can bet that your dentist will have a list of dental concerns to address, and he or she will likely check it twice. In just a few minutes of examination, your dentist will know whether you’ve been naughty or nice to your teeth during the holidays. He or she can tell if you’ve been flossing, and he or she will know if you’ve been using proper brushing techniques.
If you want to come away from your appointment with a smile rather than a pout (and a hefty bill), take extra care of your teeth this season. The following tips and pointers can help you fight gum inflammation and minimize the likelihood of tooth decay.
Let the Nutcracker Do the Work
The vitamins and minerals in nuts can greatly improve the health of your teeth and gums. Almonds, for example, offer plenty of calcium, which supports strong bones and connective tissue. Similarly, walnuts supply calcium as well as magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, which optimize calcium absorption.
However, nuts do pose problems if you try to open the shell with your teeth. If you don’t exercise care, you may loosen, crack, or chip a tooth in an attempt to pry that last pistachio out of its shell.
To enjoy the benefits without the risks, use a nutcracker to pull apart the shell. Don’t have a nutcracker on hand? Wrap the nuts in a towel and smack them with a hammer or similar object. The towel will hold the nuts in place and cushion the blow if you miss.
Choose Tooth-Friendly Snacks
The holiday season presents countless opportunities to snack, nibble, and munch with your friends and family. But if you want a healthier smile this season, make tooth-friendly swaps whenever you eat appetizers, snacks, and hors d’oeuvres.
Rather than chowing down on chips and dip (which will stick to your teeth), select from the cheese platter (as dairy neutralizes acids in your mouth). Instead of chugging the sugar-filled eggnog, opt for water, milk, or unsweetened tea. If you must choose between caramel popcorn and dark chocolate peppermint bark, pick the chocolate for its cavity-fighting polyphenols.
Not sure if a treat is helpful or harmful? As a general rule, avoid any sticky-sweet foods that linger on your teeth long after you indulge. Similarly, watch out for hard, crunchy foods that may chip a tooth. When in doubt, pick fresh fruits and vegetables, and remember to rinse your mouth with water after you eat.
Incorporate Dessert as Part of the Meal
If you’ve been good all year, you may feel tempted to be a little naughty during the holidays and indulge in fanciful desserts that you might not otherwise. That slice of grandma’s homemade apple pie may seem too irresistible to pass up, and that delightfully frosted sugar cookie may call out to you.
Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice all sweets to protect your teeth. You simply have to exercise a little restraint and time your desserts with care.
To minimize damage, eat your delicacies alongside a healthier meal rather than making dessert a separate affair. Large meals stimulate your saliva production, and your saliva effectively neutralizes acid while rinsing away food particles that stick to your teeth.
If you must eat dessert separately, chew on sugar-free gum afterward to keep your saliva production going.
Take Time to Relax and Unwind
The holidays can introduce a lot of extra stress and pressure in your life, especially if you have to cater to large groups of people. You may have to juggle multiple family events with your already hectic work schedule. You might have to cook batch after batch of cookies for the neighborhood social. Or, perhaps you need to house your sister-in-law and her three kids while they visit from out of state.
This extra stress can wreak havoc on your teeth, gums, and mouth. During particularly anxious moments or frustrating moments, you may clench and grind your teeth until they crack. In your rush to keep everyone else happy, you might forget to brush and floss. If you feel nervous about giving the annual speech at the party, you might develop dry mouth.
To keep your teeth (and your sanity) this year, make sure to take time for yourself amidst all the hustle and bustle. Take a long hot shower or soak in the bathtub after a day of shopping for gifts. Lock yourself in your bedroom and read that novel you’ve neglected for months. Or, crank up some seasonal tunes and dance away your nervous energy.
Enjoy the Festivities Without the Cavities
You and your family deserve a holiday season filled with happy, healthy smiles. When you combine your daily oral routine with the above tips, you can significantly reduce your likelihood of cavities without sacrificing the fun and magic of the season.
Just remember to book your annual dental checkup after the fun has ended so you can keep your teeth in great shape.