Getting to the Bottom of Chewing Gum Myths

It’s a moment many of our patients have experienced. One second you’re chewing on a piece of gum, then suddenly you forget to keep chewing and swallow the entire rubbery gob whole! It’s at this point you remember your mother warning you as a child that if you swallow gum it will stake a claim and take up residency in your belly for seven years. We hate to take all the fun out of the mystery, but the truth is that chewing gum, when swallowed, will enter your stomach and move through your digestive system just like any other piece of food. So, if you ever accidentally swallow a piece of gum, there is no need to worry!

That being said, it’s important to know that gum does not have any dietary benefits, so while it’s not exactly harmful to swallow, you still want to avoid swallowing it. If you are an avid gum-chewer, we encourage you to chew sugarless gum, especially if you are wearing braces, because gum with sugar can lead to cavities. Sugarless gum still has the same amount of flavor, but has fewer cavity-causing ingredients. In fact, many brands contain an additive called xylitol, a natural sweetener known to fight cavity-causing bacteria. Xylitol is also known to increase salivary flow as it rinses away plaque and acid.

The fact is, when the bacterium in your mouth breaks down sugar, what’s left behind is acid. This acid eats away at the enamel coating of your teeth, causing holes that we call cavities. Cavities can lead to other long-term mouth problems if they are not treated in time, so it is best to try and avoid overexposing your teeth to too many harmful substances!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, please contact our office. Happy (sugar-free) gum chewing!

Summer Treats for Healthy Teeth

School’s out for the summer. While most children have been home for months now, it’s officially summer vacation. And you want to keep their vacation happy, relaxing, and fun—without letting them spend those summer months cooling off with sugary treats. What are some of your options for healthy hot weather snacks?

  • Naturally Sweet Treats

Keep a supply of fresh fruit handy for summer snacking. Crispy fruits like apples and Bosc pears actually provide a little scrubbing action for the teeth with their vitamins, and softer fruits such as bananas, berries, and, of course, watermelon, provide natural sweetness along with vitamins and minerals. Yogurt has valuable calcium for strong teeth and the vitamin D our bodies need to use that calcium. Add some fresh fruit to Greek yogurt for added flavor and sweetness—and even more vitamins.

  • Savory Snacks

Cheese is a calcium-rich snack, and crunchy carrots and celery help scrub teeth while providing vitamins and minerals. Do a little mixing and matching by adding some cream cheese to that celery for extra flavor. Serve up hummus and pita chips or cheese with whole grain crackers. They’re great nutritious alternatives to chips and dip.

  • Blender Blast

Summer’s the perfect time to use your culinary creativity and expand your child’s palate with vitamin-rich smoothies. Toss your favorite fruits in the blender with a little juice, non-fat yogurt, milk, or honey, whirl away, and you have a delicious, healthy snack. You can add a few leafy greens for even more nutritional value. There are many easy recipes online for creating homemade smoothies that will please any picky palate.

  • Freezer Favorites

Ice cream is a favorite summer treat, but it can also provide quite a sugar punch. There are many homemade frozen yogurt recipes available online which combine frozen fruit, yogurt, and honey for your own summer celebration, without adding large amounts of sugar. Or choose to stock your freezer shelves with low-sugar fruit pops, store bought or homemade.

  • On Tap

A soda or a sports drink are often the go-to hydration choices in the summer. You might already be careful about handing these drinks out because they can have such a high sugar content. But they can also create a very acidic environment in the mouth, which is harmful to tooth enamel. Water is the safest, healthiest option for hydrating in hot weather, and can even provide some of the fluoride which helps keep enamel strong.

Whatever is on your child’s summer menu, keep up with all those great dental habits you’ve already established. A limited number of snacks—even healthy ones—is best, and be sure to brush after snacking, or rinse with water if brushing’s not an option. And don’t forget to maintain your child’s normal schedule of brushing and flossing, and regular visits with us at our office when possible.

Have a great summer, and send your kids back to school rested, relaxed, and with a healthy, happy smile. Then take a moment, relax, and sip that smoothie—after all, you deserve a break after all your hard work!

I brush my teeth regularly. Why do I need to floss?

Brushing your teeth regularly is one of the most crucial parts of maintaining good oral health, and perhaps the most fundamental, however, there are also other elements involved. Flossing, for instance, is also vital; some experts would say, and our team would agree, that it holds just as much importance as brushing your teeth. To give you a better idea of why, here are some reasons that flossing is so vital to your oral health.

Getting in-between the Teeth

While brushing your teeth effectively cleans all of the areas of your teeth that are visible, or otherwise not touching, flossing is vital because it reaches all of the areas between your teeth that you cannot see, and subsequently cannot clean using a toothbrush. These areas are among the most sensitive and vulnerable parts of your mouth because they are most susceptible to plaque and tartar buildup.

Reducing Bad Breath

It is not uncommon for someone who brushes their teeth once or twice a day to still have bad breath. The reason being is that bad breath is often created by smelly bacteria that lives in between your teeth, as well as other areas of your mouth that are not accessible using a toothbrush. And that is why flossing is one of the best ways to reduce or eliminate bad breath. Still skeptical? Try flossing your teeth with unscented floss, then smell it after, that awful scent is the source of your bad breath. Coupled with frequent brushing of your teeth, you will find that flossing can really help that stinky breath.

Brushing your teeth twice a day is hard enough, add flossing on top and it can be difficult to establish a regular habit. However, doing so is totally worth it; just look at the aforementioned reasons why. Use these for motivation the next time you don’t feel like flossing, and let us know if it worked at your next visit to our office.

Smile! It’s Time for Arts & Crafts!

If you have a child who loves arts and crafts, try some of these creative projects with a dental twist. One of these activities is sure to give your child something to smile about!

Toothbrush Art

Why throw away that used toothbrush when you can help your young child make art with it? Give it one more cleaning and a second life. The easy-to-grip handle and the wide bristles make a toothbrush easy for young hands to hold and paint with. If you are in an adventurous mood, use the brush to make splatter art. Your child can splatter an entire sheet of paper for an abstract effect, make a sky full of stars with a flick of the brush, or add splatter leaves to a tree scene. Cut out a stencil with a favorite shape (an animal, a flower, a toy), place it on a sheet of paper, splatter around it, remove the cutout, and—instant silhouette!

Paper Crafts

If your child is an origami enthusiast, there are some challenging dental-themed examples available online. These might be too advanced for beginners, but more experienced origami fans can make molars with roots and even molars lined with pink paper to symbolize the interior pulp. Younger paper artists might enjoy making construction paper models of an actual tooth, with white enamel, yellow dentin, and pink pulp layered in their proper order.

Sculpting Fun

For the scientifically minded young artist, clay can be used to make a 3D model of a tooth, with different colored clays representing the different layers of the tooth. Younger children learning about their teeth might enjoy fitting little white clay teeth into a pink clay crescent to show how baby (or adult) teeth fit into the gums. And for non-dental inspiration, old, clean toothbrushes can once again help out if your child likes sculpting art work with modeling clay. Add interesting texture by using the brush bristles on damp clay to create grooves, lines, or indentations.

Welcome the Tooth Fairy

If the Tooth Fairy is a regular visitor, make her welcome with a box decorated with paint or fabric to hold that special baby tooth. Or craft a pouch or a bag with fabrics scraps, and add a fabric tooth so that the Tooth Fairy will know she has come to the right spot. If you use felt and fabric glue, no sewing necessary! If your Tooth Fairy is an under-the-pillow traditionalist, decorate an envelope with a letter to the Tooth Fairy inside.

If some of these projects sound just right for your child, check out online craft sites for even more ideas. And, please be sure to have your children show and tell the next time they are able to visit our office. That will put a smile on our faces!

Dental Emergencies in Children

Dental emergencies are bound to come up when you have young children. Our team wants you to be prepared in case you run into a difficult situation. Problems can vary, from minor gum irritation to knocked-out teeth. Take a look at the different possibilities and how you can handle them.

Teething

Depending on the age of your child, there are common things to watch for when it comes to his or her teeth. Starting from a young age, your son or daughter may experience teething pain. This starts at about four months and can last up to three years.

Teething may cause your little one to become irritable and more prone to drooling due to tender gums. This is very common in young children who are teething, and can be alleviated by giving them a cold teething ring or by rubbing their gums with your finger.

Teething pain is as normal as your child’s first set of teeth falling out. On the other hand, if a baby tooth is knocked out in a forceful accident, make sure you bring him or her into our office to check that other damage hasn’t occurred in the mouth. On occasion, permanent teeth may grow in before baby teeth have fallen out. This may not cause any discomfort, but we should make sure the teeth are growing in properly. Catching teeth that are coming in incorrectly can prevent issues from arising in adulthood.

Gum Issues

If you’ve noticed your child’s gums bleeding often, this could result from a number of things. Bleeding gums may be an early sign of periodontal disease, which is caused by poor oral hygiene when it appears in children. Excessive gum bleeding can also occur when children brush their teeth too hard, or suffer an injury to their gum tissue.

If bleeding is continuous, rinse your child’s mouth with warm salt water and apply light pressure to the area. If you become concerned about the amount of blood, contact our office and we will schedule an appointment for your youngster as soon as possible.

Depending on what type of dental issue your child is experiencing, you should make sure to treat it quickly and properly. If you have questions or concerns about what you can do to help your son or daughter develop better oral hygiene habits, ask for tips during your next appointment.

Don’t forget: As a parent, you can provide the best education to your children on the importance of proper oral hygiene by setting a good example. 

Keeping Your Teeth Strong and Healthy

What is the strongest part of our bodies? Do you think it might be our bones, which help us move and protect our brains, hearts and other organs? Or could it be those tough fingernails and toenails that guard our fingertips and toes? Nope! You might be surprised to learn that the hardest thing in our bodies is the enamel which covers our teeth!

Our bones grow with us and can even knit back together in case we have a broken arm or leg. Our toenails grow more slowly, and our fingernails grow more quickly, so regularly trimming is required for both. But our enamel doesn’t grow or repair itself when it is damaged, so it needs to last us a lifetime. How can such a strong part of our bodies be damaged? And can we do anything to protect our teeth? Luckily, we can!

Prevent Chips and Cracks

You might be the fastest on your bike, or the highest scorer on your basketball team, or able to do the most amazing tricks on your skateboard. But even the strongest teeth can’t win against a paved road, or an elbow under the basket, or a cement skate park. If you’re physically active, talk to us about a mouthguard. This removable appliance fits closely around the teeth and can protect your teeth and jaw in case of accident. And protect your enamel even when you’re not being adventurous! Don’t bite down on ice cubes or hard candy, and save your pens and pencils for writing, not chewing.

Guard Your Teeth from Tooth Grinding

If you grind your teeth, you’re not alone! Many other young people do, too—mostly in their sleep. In fact, it might be a parent or sibling who lets you know you are grinding at night. But constant pressure on your enamel can lead to cracked enamel, sensitivity, and even worn down teeth. How can you protect them? Once again, a mouth guard can be a great solution. We can custom fit one to allow you to sleep comfortably while protecting your teeth.

Eat Healthy Foods & Brush Regularly

We all have bacteria in our mouths. Some are helpful, and some are not. The bacteria in plaque can change food products like sugar and starches into acids. These acids actually break down our enamel, which can lead to tooth sensitivity and decay. Making sugars and carbs a small part of your regular diet, and eating meals rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, will help stop acids from attacking your enamel. And careful brushing and flossing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste can help keep those minerals in enamel from breaking down and even help restore them.

Your enamel is the strongest part of your body, and you can help it stay that way. Protect your teeth from accidents, let our team know if you or a parent suspect you are grinding your teeth, eat healthy foods, and keep up your regular brushing. And remember, we are here to help keep your family’s teeth and mouth their healthiest for your strongest, most beautiful smile.

Let’s Talk About Fluoride

So much of parenting is a balancing act. Making sure your child has enough play time and enough nap time. Crafting meals that are both healthy and appealing. Making sure every dental product you use is both effective and safe.

While our team can’t recommend the perfect bedtime story, or tell you why your child just won’t go for that delicious steamed broccoli, we are more than happy to discuss the very best ways to promote healthy, strong teeth. Should fluoride toothpaste be part of your child’s dental routine? For many good reasons, the answer is yes.

Why Fluoride is Important

Our enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies, with the highest concentration of minerals, but it is not indestructible. The bacteria that live in our mouths create acids which attack our enamel. Weakened enamel leads to cavities. Fluoride is a mineral that makes the enamel surface more resistant to these acids, and can actually help our enamel repair itself in a process called “remineralization.” Fluoride helps prevent cavities and makes teeth stronger, and those are benefits that will last your child a lifetime.

Can There Be Too Much of a Good Thing?

Fluorosis is a condition that can sometimes develop when a child has been exposed to too much fluoride while the adult teeth are developing below the gum line. (Around the age of eight, children’s teeth have finished forming and are not at risk.) Fluorosis is not a disease, and doesn’t harm teeth, but can lead to faint streaks in the enamel. While this streaking is usually white and subtle, it can sometimes be darker and more noticeable. Teeth discolored by fluorosis can be treated cosmetically, but prevention is always the best option.

Finding the Perfect Balance

Talk to us about using fluoride toothpaste when your baby’s first teeth start arriving. If a very young child is at risk for tooth decay, we might recommend early use of fluoride toothpaste. And for these small children, younger than the age of three, a small smear of paste (about the size of a grain of rice) is sufficient if needed. Swallowing fluoride products increases the risk of fluorosis, so make sure to use a very small amount of paste.

Because young children can’t understand the concept of rinsing and spitting, you always want to make sure the amount of toothpaste you use is age-appropriate even as they get older.  From ages three to six, a pea-sized dab of toothpaste is enough. Children should not use fluoride rinses or supplements unless recommended, and should be monitored to make sure they spit out fluoride toothpaste or rinses after brushing.

Most drinking water already has natural levels of fluoride, which normally aren’t a problem. If you are concerned about high fluoride levels in your local water, talk to us. If your water has higher levels of fluoride than normal, you can minimize consumption when your baby is young by breastfeeding, using non-fluoridated water for mixing with formula powder or concentrate, or buying prepared formula. If your child is a toddler, don’t add fluoride rinses or supplements unless they are recommended by a dental or medical professional.

Talk to us during your visit to our office about protecting your child’s teeth. We are happy to help you find just the right amount of fluoride to keep young smiles stronger and more resistant to tooth decay. Healthy teeth in a beautiful smile—that’s a perfect balance!

Ease up on your gums — don’t brush your teeth too hard!

A lot of patients go at their teeth like they were sanding an old floor—that is to say, way too hard! Brushing too hard is probably the most common mistake patients make in their oral care routine, and it can be detrimental to the gums and teeth.

What can brushing too hard cause?

  • Receding gums
  • Bone loss around teeth
  • Loss of teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity, especially to hot and cold
  • Worn down enamel

Brushing too hard wears away at your gums, which can lead to the neck of the teeth being exposed. This part of the tooth isn’t covered by hard enamel like the rest of the tooth and hence the soft inner layer, or dentin, is exposed. Dentin is very sensitive to hot and cold and much more susceptible to bacterial decay. Once the gums recede due to improper brushing, it’s usually irreversible.

How to brush teeth properly

You know you’re supposed to brush your teeth twice a day, so why not do it right? First and foremost, you should only ever brush with a soft bristled brush—not medium or hard—unless directed otherwise by our office. Unless you have braces or specific oral health issues, brushing twice a day for two minutes is usually plenty.

The main purpose of brushing is to remove plaque from your teeth and gums. Plaque is actually soft and is a buildup of bacteria, saliva, and food debris. You really don’t need to brush hard to remove it, just make sure you aim your toothbrush at the gum line (where plaque grows) and brush in small circular motions, never a back-and-forth motion.

It’s also wise to hold your toothbrush gently. People tend to brush harder the tighter they hold their toothbrush.

Still have questions about proper tooth brushing technique or gum health? Ask any staff member during your next visit to our office; we’d be happy to help!

Treatment and Diagnosis for Your Child’s Teeth Grinding

The habit of grinding teeth can be both painful and harmful for your children. If you discover that they are frequently grinding their teeth—a condition called bruxism—here is some helpful information on the problem, and how you can find help to put a halt to it.

How to Know if Your Child is Grinding

Sometimes, identifying a child that grinds teeth is as simple as checking in while he or she is asleep. At other times, you may not be able to readily identify the grinding problem. A few of the most common symptoms associated with bruxism include:

  • Frequent teeth grinding or clenching of the jaw (in some cases it may be more subtle; in others it may be loud enough that you can hear it)
  • Teeth that are worn down
  • Complaints of sensitive teeth
  • Pain or tightness in the jaw muscles, or an earache or other jaw pain
  • Frequent unexplained headaches

In most cases, if your children are grinding their teeth, they will do it at night. If the teeth grinding is a result of excessive amounts of stress, it may also happen during the daytime. Some of the most common reasons children grind their teeth involve:

  • Improper alignment of top and bottom teeth
  • As a response to pain, especially for tooth, jaw, or gum pain
  • Excessive stress, tension, or anger

Treatment Options for Bruxism

In many cases, children will grow out of the teeth grinding as their permanent teeth develop, replacing poorly aligned or painful baby teeth. If your child grinds his or her teeth more frequently, or you begin to notice significant damage, it may be more serious and need to be addressed before it causes more permanent pain or problems.

In some cases, our team may recommend that your child wears a protective mouthguard to prevent grinding, or work with a therapist or other specialist to develop awareness of the grinding. If the grinding is caused by stress or anxiety, it may be helpful for you to sit down and talk to your child each day about how she is feeling, and why, to help her work through the stress.

Teeth grinding can be a painful, problematic condition for some children. However, a combination of parental vigilance and frequent visits for regular checkups at our office can help. If you are concerned that your child may be grinding his or her teeth, and it could cause permanent damage before the child grows out of it, come talk to us about strategies for dealing with bruxism, and ways for you to help your child.

Can children be at risk for periodontal disease?

You want to check all the boxes when you consider your child’s dental health. You make sure your child brushes twice daily to avoid cavities. You’ve made a plan for an orthodontic checkup just in case braces are needed. You insist on a mouthguard for dental protection during sports. One thing you might not have considered? Protecting your child from gum disease.

We often think about gum disease, or periodontitis, as an adult problem. In fact, children and teens can suffer from gingivitis and other gum disease as well. There are several possible reasons your child might develop gum disease:

Poor dental hygiene

Two minutes of brushing twice a day is the recommended amount of time to remove the bacteria and plaque that cause gingivitis (early gum disease). Flossing is also essential for removing bacteria and plaque from hard-to-reach areas around the teeth.

Puberty

The hormones that cause puberty can also lead to gums that become irritated more easily when exposed to plaque. This is a time to be especially proactive with dental health.

Medical conditions

Medical conditions such as diabetes can bring an increased risk of gum disease. Be sure to give us a complete picture of your child’s health, and we will let you know if there are potential complications for your child’s gums and teeth and how we can respond to and prevent them.

Periodontal diseases

More serious periodontal diseases, while relatively uncommon, can affect children and teens as well as adults. Aggressive periodontitis, for example, results in connective and bone tissue loss around the affected teeth, leading to loose teeth and even tooth loss. Let us know if you have a family history of gum disease, as that might be a factor in your child’s dental health, and tell us if you have noticed any symptoms of gum disease.

How can we help our children prevent gum disease? Here are some symptoms you should never ignore:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Redness or puffiness in the gums
  • Gums that are pulling away, or receding, from the teeth
  • Bad breath even after brushing

The best treatment for childhood gum disease is prevention. Careful brushing and flossing and regular visits to our office for a professional cleaning will stop gingivitis from developing and from becoming a more serious form of gum disease. We will take care to look for any signs of gum problems, and have suggestions for you if your child is at greater risk for periodontitis. Together, we can encourage gentle and proactive gum care, and check off one more goal accomplished on your child’s path to lifelong dental health!