Healthy Teeth For Life: 5 Tips For Kids

Early dental care is essential for ensuring a bright and healthy future. It’s also important for “beating the statistics,” including:

  • American children miss 51 million school hours because of dental problems
  • Over 40% of children have cavities by kindergarten
  • 17.5% of children aged 5-19 have untreated cavities
  • Preventable dental visits to the ER cost millions annually, in Massachusetts alone

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, a great time to focus on kids’ oral health. Here are 5 tips to help protect your child’s smile for years to come.

roman casazza future of dentistry wakefield ma
How do you make a great smile, like Roman’s, last a lifetime? These 5 tips will help.

1) Don’t Overlook Baby Teeth: It’s easy to underestimate the importance of primary teeth. Yes, baby teeth will fall out, but you still have to take care of them. Decay can spread to permanent teeth that are forming underneath or even to the gums. And the bacteria that harms teeth doesn’t go away when primary teeth fall out. Home care should begin as soon as the first tooth emerges, and a preliminary dental visit should take place around age 2. Click here to learn more.

2) Get The Tooth Fairy On Your Side: When baby teeth first become loose and “wiggly,” it’s a great time to remind kids how important oral hygiene is. A simple comment at bedtime can go a long way: “You know, the Tooth Fairy can tell if you brush your teeth.” In other words, let the Tooth Fairy do for dental care what Santa and the Elf on the Shelf do for good behavior in general.

An effective follow-up: “When your new tooth comes in, you’ll never grow another one in that spot. You have to be really good about taking care of your big kid teeth, because you’ll have them when you’re a grownup.”

Primary teeth typically begin to fall out around age 6 or 7, often starting with the lower center teeth. (Fun side note: The Tooth Fairy is paying more than ever, according to a nationwide poll. Click here to learn more.)

3) Make It Fun: There’s a reason why our office provides kid-friendly toothpaste flavors. It’s the same reason we demonstrate brushing on cute, toothy stuffed animals and why kids can pick a toy from our toy chest after every visit.

Put simply, children like it! These little touches, and others like them, create a positive feeling about dental health. Let’s face it, kids pay attention to things that are fun. They’re more likely to absorb what you tell them – and actually stick to their oral hygiene routine – if they don’t feel like it’s a chore.

Try setting your child’s two-minute brushing session to music, such as these song options. Let them choose their own toothbrush and toothpaste flavor at the store. Consider using an electric brush – in addition to tracking the two-minute brushing time, kids get a kick out of them.

4) Prevent Growing Pains: How do you help older kids take responsibility for their own dental care? This can be a challenge, even in families that established great habits during early childhood. Try to encourage independence as children get older. For example, save appointments to their smartphone calendar as well as yours.

Many older teens can handle going to an after-school hygiene visit without a parent. Ask our hygienist to provide your teen with a “Continuing Care Report Card,” which provides a checklist of what occurred during the visit and recommendations for future care. That way, a teen learns to handle dental visits solo, while the parent stays in the loop.

As they reach college age, encourage young adults to book their own appointments. Our office can set up appointment reminders to go to your child by text and to you by email, if you feel like they need an extra reminder. If your child lives on-campus at college, have them contact Future of Dentistry in advance to book their hygiene visits during winter and summer breaks.

5) Don’t Overlook Diet: Diet is one of the most underrated ways of promoting a healthy smile. Food and drinks that are heavy on sugar/carbs or acid can profoundly affect your child’s teeth, now and in the future.

What’s healthy for your body is usually healthy for your teeth, with rare exceptions. Minimize sugar intake, and encourage kids to brush after eating sweet snacks. If they can’t brush, drinking and rinsing with water will at least help.

For beverages, juice is a common culprit. Though it’s nutritious, it’s high in sugar and in some cases in acidity. Try limiting juice to the morning and evening, when your child will be brushing soon afterward. Energy drinks and sports waters are some of the worst offenders when it comes to damaging enamel. Click here to learn more about the acidity of popular energy and sports beverages.

Tips For A Sweet Valentine’ Day

Love conquers many things, but not toothaches, to paraphrase the actress Mae West. Make sure your Valentine’s Day is a sweet one with these simple suggestions.

Valentines Day tips
Looks delicious! But everything on this table can cause a less-than-fresh Valentine’s Day.

The no-no list: Some foods seem like they’d be harmless for your breath, but they alter conditions in your mouth. Sugar is probably the best-known of these foods — it promotes bacteria that leads to offensive breath. Dairy is also an offender, including cheese. Dairy products contain dense proteins that are hard for the mouth to break down.

Wine not?: For many of us, a glass of wine is an essential part of a celebratory dinner. You may be tempted to brush afterward, especially if you’re drinking red wine. We’d never discourage brushing, but be sure to wait an hour! Wine is extremely acidic, and brushing immediately after spreads the acid around. Wait about 90 minutes if possible, to give your mouth a chance to return to its natural pH level.

White overnight: If you’re looking for a last-minute gift idea, ask our office about our special offer on laser whitening! When you call now, you and your sweetheart can save $100 each on whitening. Laser whitening is popular because of its fast, dramatic results. It’s sometimes called bleaching or in-office whitening.

Sweet tooth: Anything with sugar takes a toll on your teeth, of course. But the worst culprits to avoid are sticky, chewy treats like gummy candies and caramels. Most chocolate is, comparatively, not as bad, but you definitely want to brush and floss soon after eating any candy.

Quick tips: There are two simple ways to improve your breath and your dental health. First, avoid “grazing” on snacks. Leave your mouth time to recover and break down the tiny food particles in your mouth — your sweetheart will thank you for it. And if you chew gum to freshen your breath, look for a brand that contains Xylitol, which helps your mouth maintain a healthy pH balance.

Drink up: Want fresh breath for the big night? Stay hydrated. It helps with saliva production, and saliva is your best friend when it comes to fighting bacteria that causes bad breath.

Workplace woes: The entire Valentine’s week is usually chock-full of sweets, since people bring in treats to celebrate as well as leftover snacks after the holiday. Those cupcakes and candies take a toll! We often neglect to brush and floss at work, which only makes it worse. Try to save your snacking for lunchtime so you can clean after you eat.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all our patients and readers!

Protect Your Teeth By Preserving Tooth Enamel

Cavities are not the only way you can damage your tooth enamel. Non-carious lesions can lead to a number of problems including grooves or notches in the sides and at the base of your teeth.

smile enamel
Loss of enamel can lead to damaged teeth and affect the cosmetic appearance of your smile.

These notches can be caused by excessive wear and pressure due to clenching and grinding as often the force of the stress is leveled at its most narrow point which is the base of your tooth.

Another very common cause of damage is erosion. Since dental erosion is painless, we dentists are often the first to notice that damage has been done.

Here are some common causes of enamel erosion…

  • acidic foods and beverages including lemons and other citrus fruits, juices, pickles, and wine coolers
  • foods and beverages containing carbohydrates and added sugars as well as carbonated beverages, pre-sweetened cereals, candies, and other sweet treats
  • beverages that may contain powerful phosphoric acids including sports drinks, vitamin waters, energy drinks and protein drinks

As with any oral health issue, prevention is always preferable, and it seems obvious looking at this list that limiting your acidic- and carbohydrate-laden foods and beverages is an essential strategy. With erosion, proper brushing habits are important for two reasons.

First, you don’t want to brush too hard and cause more damage to enamel that has been
softened by acids. Toothbrush abrasion is definitely the biggest culprit – it can expose the roots of your teeth and your teeth enamel to cavity-causing bacteria, thin your teeth enamel so that the yellow dentin inside shows through, and make your teeth sensitive to hot and cold.

Second, it is crucial to remove plaque, the biofilm that you can feel on your teeth, especially at the gumline. Once formed into plaque, the oral bacteria that feeds on sugars left in your mouth after eating produces demineralizing acids. Fluoride toothpaste can help to protect your teeth and re-mineralize, and if clenching and grinding is a problem, an occlusal guard is an excellent preventive option.

If you’ve already lost teeth enamel, or think you may have, let’s talk during your next visit about your options for the restoration and preservation of your smile. Most of the time you can be treated with a simple tooth-colored filling that is bonded to your tooth, although if the tooth has a large existing filling or extensive decay, a crown may be needed.

Whichever strategy suits, you can be sure that your smile will look completely natural – just stronger and better than ever.