Category: General Health and Safety

Demineralization – say what?!?
Demineralization – say what?!?

I was driving down the road the other day a flipped down my visor to take a look at my brows to see if they needed tweezing.  It’s a long story, but the short version is that we have fluorescent lighting in our house and it is horrible and makes it impossible to visualize little details like, “Do my brows look ok?”  It turned out that my brows were indeed in need of plucking (luckily, I have tweezers in the car).  I flashed a smile at myself in the mirror and was shocked to note how yellow and, well, translucent my teeth appeared. What could be causing that?

“Tea?  Coffee?” my helpful husband suggested.  No, that wasn’t it.  I have recently changed toothpastes to an all-natural one, which means that there is not added fluoride.  I also drink water that has been filtered for everything, so there’s no fluoride in my drinking water.  “Could theses things be the culprit of my clear, yellow teeth?” I wondered to myself.

It turns out that minerals such as calcium and phosphate help make up tooth enamel, along with bone and dentin. They also prevent tooth decay and, subsequently, cavities.  As we age, the minerals in our teeth can decrease. This may be caused by eating sugary and acidic foods (soda, coffee, and more). It can also occur when bacteria accumulate in the mouth. Sadly, once the enamel or bone are gone, there’s no way to get them back without replacing the tooth entirely.  As I looked at my teeth in the mirror, I realized that the discoloration just might be due to demineralization.

Fear not!  It IS possible to help replenish the calcium and phosphate minerals with lifestyle changes and home remedies before tooth decay occurs. This process is known as remineralization.

How to remineralize?

Step 1:  BRUSH YOUR TEETH!

Like a broken record, let me repeat:  brushing your teeth is important.  It removes bacteria. Bacteria cause cavities.  No bacteria: No cavities.

Step 2:  Use fluoride toothpaste

Fluoride strengthens your teeth and it prevents tooth decay via the remineralization process.

Step 3:  Stop with the sugar already!

Again, like a broken record: Sugar is bad.  It is highly acidic and it interacts with bacteria in the mouth, breaking down tooth enamel.  A special note: natural, unprocessed sugars, like honey may be among the worst culprits for harming tooth enamel.  Another special note:  it’s not the *quantity* of sugar that you consume, but rather the frequency with which you do so that affects tooth demineralization.

Potatoes, rice, bread and other starch-laden foods increase the amount of fermentable sugars in the mouth, resulting in tooth erosion, just as with “regular” sugars.  Combine starchy foods with sugar and you have a lethal mix.  Always keep in mind that sugar comes in the form of carbohydrates as well as sugar.

Step 4:  Chew sugarless gum

Finally, advice that is fun.  Current studies indicate that sugarless gums may actually promote the remineralization process because they help to remove sugar, plaque and carbohydrates from the teeth, while encouraging salivation.

Step 4:  Fruit and fruit juice consumption should be in moderation

It’s sad, but it’s best to not consume fruit juice and to consume fruits in moderation. Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, etc.) are particularly bad for the calcium in your teeth.  Fruit acids cause calcium chelation, which means that the acids from the fruits bind with the tooth calcium and strip it away.  Simply said:  More fruit = less tooth calcium.

Step 6:  Increase your calcium and vitamin intake, including probiotics

Bonus:  eating calcium-rich cheeses might counteract the effects of eating sugar.  If your dietary calcium intake is low, consider a supplement.  Newer studies indicate that Vitamin D may be be important for protecting against cavities. Ask your doctor or dentist if they feel that a Vitamin D supplement might be a good idea for you.  Probiotics have received a lot of attention in recent years, and with good reason.  When it comes to your teeth, they can be an important player in the process of reminerilization.  Only certain strains of probiotics are produced in the mouth and these are the ones you want to take to aide in oral health.  These strains include bifidobacterium, reuteri, rhamnosus and salivarius.  Finally, take a daily multi-vitamin.

Step 7 :  Decrease your dairy intake.

There’s balance in everything.  Dairy is a great source of calcium.  But, the lactose in traditional milk products can increase the acidity in your mouth.  Consider opting for lactose-free, almond, or soy milk.

Step 8:  Salivate

Saliva is integral ot remineralization.  If you find that you have a dry mouth, then consider talking to your dentist about gums and rinses that can increase saliva activity.  In the meantime, start chewing a sugarfree gum between meals.

Step 9:  Drink WATER

‘Nuff said.

Mommy – My throat hurts!
Mommy – My throat hurts!

Mommy – My throat hurts!

When you hear this statement, as a parent, you should ask yourself some questions.

  • How long has my child been complaining of a sore throat?
  • When was the last time that she complained of a sore throat (ie, is this happening often)?
  • Is he having difficulty breathing?
  • What about swallowing?
  • Does she seem to be having a hard time opening her mouth?
  • Are there also complaints about joint pain?
  • Do one or both of his ears hurt?
  • Does she have a rash anywhere on her body?
  • Does she have a prolonged fever over 101F?
  • Is his voice hoarse? How long has it been like that?
  • Does he have any lumps in his neck?

Sore throats are part of life.

The most common cause of a simple sore throat? Viral infection. The solution:  Time.  Sore throats can be present with a cold or the flu, so, naturally, sore throats are more common in the winter months when upper respiratory infections are more common. Sometimes, sore throats are the result of a bacterial infection and these often require antibiotics in order to be properly resolved.  Allergies and environmental conditions can also cause sore throats.

Kids have sore throats more often than teens or adults and that is normal.

Sore throats can be an indicator of something more serious, which is where your parental detective skills come in.  Ask yourself the questions at the top of this post … if many of these questions are answered in a positive manner, then you need to call the pediatrician.

Always contact your doctor if your child has a sore throat that is not associated with a virus (ie, begins to resolve within five to seven days), is not due to allergies, or is not caused by environmental conditions.

When in doubt, check it out.

How to Manage Childhood Seasonal Allergies
How to Manage Childhood Seasonal Allergies

childrens seasonal allergies

Seasonal allergies are no fun, whether you are child or an adult, but an adult’s pain is doubled, as they watch their children suffer.  Seasonal allergies, such as tree pollen, affect almost 40% of children living in the United States. Symptoms of seasonal allergies range from mild to severe, and can include, but not be limited to sneezing, coughing, and itchy eyes. Mild symptoms are annoying, but severe symptoms can have an impact on a child’s schoolwork and social activities.

Depending on the season, children who suffer with allergies understand that even the simplest pleasures, such as playing outside with friends can be torture.  For instance, children who are allergic to grass, suffer the most during the summer months.  Anyone allergic to ragweed feel the worst during the autumn months, and children allergic to pollen find that symptoms increase during the spring months.

To reduce symptoms and limit stress, below are some helpful tips:

  1. Plan the family vacation around allergy seasons.  Enjoy a winter ski trip, if summer allergies hit your child the hardest.
  2. Children love camps, but if traditional summer camps that are outside are impossible, explore other options, such as computer camps and/or art camps that are inside, but still stimulate their minds. These camps will allow them to engage socially and tap into their creativity.
  3. Being part of a sports team, such as soccer can trigger allergies, but it is no reason to limit a child’s desire to play on a team.  Swimming, dance, and even martial arts may be good sport team alternatives.
  4. Mornings are when pollen count is the highest, so encourage outdoor play late in the afternoon.
  5. It is highly recommend that children wash up/shower each evening, to wipe off any microscopic particles of grass or lingering pollen.
  6. Since pet dander is a common allergen among many children, encourage children to have their friends over to your home for a visit and even a sleepover.
  7. A day at the park maybe relaxing for some people, but for those children with allergies, this could be a nightmare.  Instead, head to the ocean when allergy sufferers usually find some relief.
  8. When pollen count is high, indoor activities are fun, such as visiting a museum and story time at the local library.
  9. Keep windows and doors closed when allergy symptoms are high.  Use the air conditioner to keep the home and car cool.
  10. Vacuum often and invest in a high-efficiency air filer, to reduce symptoms of allergies.

Prescription medication may become necessary; so speak to your pediatrician, to seek the best treatment to have your child feeling the best they can be.

Not Sure What to Pack Your Kids for Lunch?
Not Sure What to Pack Your Kids for Lunch?

Choosing the best foods to put in your child’s lunch or give them as a snack can often be a challenging task. As a parent you want to choose something they will like but also something that is healthy for their body and their teeth. If a child is regularly eating candy or sugary snacks during the day, that sugar will just sit on their teeth until they brush them in the evening. Here is a list of some snack options that  promote children’s dental health as well!

  1. Oranges, sweet peppers or strawberries all contain the popular nutrient vitamin c. This vitamin is especially helpful in fighting certain types of bacteria in the mouth because they don’t like its acidic nature.
  2. Nuts or foods containing seeds have healthy oils in them which can coat the teeth and act a protective barrier to invading bacteria. Some examples could be peanuts, almonds, whole grain breads or hearty granola bars.
  3. Milk and Dairy products can also be healthy for teeth because they are an excellent source of calcium, which is helpful in keeping kids teeth strong and resilient. Dairy products also increase the acidity of the mouth and thus ward off any acid loving bacteria.
  4. Apples, Carrots or celery can be excellent choices because they mechanically clean the teeth. Their crispness acts as a kind of abrasive surface on the teeth, helping scrape off any plaque or buildup.
  5. Always give water. Children of course love juice and sugar drinks however the less you give these to your children, the better off their dental health will be. Always promote drinking water because it helps rinse the mouth as well as hydrate.

These are just a few ideas to help inspire healthy snacks, which are also healthy for the mouth. Limiting the amount of times your child snacks a day is also very helpful in keeping the sugar loving bacteria to a minimum.  Being a parent is never easy, but promoting and instilling healthy snacking habits in your child will always pay off, especially concerning their dental health.

Facts About Wisdom Teeth You May Not Know

For most young adults wisdom teeth will eventually become a topic of discussion. Do I have them? Should I have them removed? Have they already grown in? These are some common questions you may ask your dentist when considering what to do with your wisdom teeth. Having a fuller knowledge about what wisdom teeth actually are, why they exist in the human mouth and the risks associated with them will help you understand the whole process much better.

Wisdom teeth are called by that name because they normally begin to show in the human mouth around the ages of 17-25 years old. These years are typically thought to be the “ages of gaining wisdom”. They are said to originally exist in the mouth because humans used to have to eat much harder or grainy foods so they needed to have extra molars in order to grind it down. Today, food is much more processed and so the necessity for wisdom teeth has become less and less.

The main risk is that wisdom teeth are quite large and can easily cause crowding within the mouth. Crowding can lead to multiple complications such as tooth decay or jaw problems. If the mouth is overly crowded, wisdom teeth can become displaced and grow in sideways or only partially emerge from the gums. Partial eruption is dangerous because it makes the tooth difficult to clean and allows debris to be easily trapped around the tooth, which can lead to infection or decay. If the wisdom tooth never erupts at all, it can cause problems below the surface of the gums such as tooth displacement or crowding.

In certain situations the wisdom teeth can grow in straight to become fully functional. These scenarios typically don’t require immediate removal of the teeth however they still need to be watched and monitored closely because complications can occur later on. Fully emerged wisdom teeth are set very far back in the mouth making proper cleaning difficult. This leaves them always at high risk for decay or causing certain gum infections.

Extractions: When Are They Necessary?
Extractions: When Are They Necessary?

Tooth pulling or extraction is a common topic of discussion within the dental community. No one wants to voluntarily get a tooth pulled. Teeth were intended by the body to last a lifetime of wear and tear, however there a multiple reasons as to why tooth extraction should be or must be done.

Space is needed!

The mouth is only so big. Your skull determines that. However, the relationship between the size of the mouth, the dental arch and the size of the teeth sometimes do not coexist in harmony. Crowding in the mouth can be caused by any of the aforementioned factors and can lead to many harmful side effects, such as bite alignment, infection, smile aesthetic or just overall discomfort.

There are some instances where space could be made by braces or other teeth correcting techniques, however the time required to complete the job is too drastic and may jeopardize tooth and gum health. Thus pulling the tooth is the wiser and safer option.

Bite Correction

Having a Bite, which is not properly aligned (malocclusion), though seemingly harmless, can actually affect the health of the mouth greatly. If the mouth is too crowded, the upper and lower teeth may not be properly aligned. This is an issue because it can cause irregular wear on particular teeth, jaw discomfort when chewing or frequent biting of the cheeks and tongue. All of which have a negative effect on the overall health of the mouth and teeth.

Profile and Smile

An out of place tooth can negatively affect the profile and smile which has an overall impact on your dental hygiene. If the mouth is overcrowded or there is a tooth with strange alignment or placement, the profile of the teeth will be affected. This tooth can be a danger to the hygiene of the mouth if it is hard to reach when cleaning or very easily traps debris throughout the day.

Though the extraction of teeth is always an undesired procedure, the life-long positive effects of having a mouth with space, a bite with perfect alignment and a healthy profile and smile are well worth it!

Thumb-sucking, Pacifiers, and How They Can Affect Your Child’s Teeth
Thumb-sucking, Pacifiers, and How They Can Affect Your Child’s Teeth

Thumb sucking and pacifiers are probably the bane of any parent’s existence at one time or another. These habits, though incredibly useful to soothe a fussy baby or toddler eventually become a worry for most parents concerned about their child’s dental health. As child of 1-2 years old, these coping skills shouldn’t be worried about too greatly. However, when the ages of 3 or 4 are reached and the habit is still in full swing, some harm may be done to development of the child’s teeth, jaw and mouth. The sucking motion eventually narrows the upper jaw due to pressure being applied to the sides and soft palate often resulting in the need for braces or can potentially cause speech problems.

Parents are always wondering what are some tricks to help stop a child who sucks his thumb or takes a pacifier so here are a couple tips and tricks for both:

Thumb sucking:

  1. Try to limit the time your child is sucking their thumb to only bedtime or naptime. This helps give them the day time hours where they will eventually learn thumb sucking is only for bedtime.
  2. Help your child understand that when they’re ready to stop sucking their thumb, you will be there to support them. This can really help empower a child to stop the habit.
  3. Come up with creative methods to help the child understand that they are growing every day and eventually won’t need to suck their thumb anymore.

 

Pacifier use:

  1. Taking the pacifier away earlier is always better. If you notice that your baby is not actively sucking on their pacifier or needing it too much as night, feel free to just take it away. Limiting their access will avoid difficult to break habit forming later on.
  2. Going cold turkey can also be an option. Many parents designate a special day, such as a birthday or vacation, where they tell the child before hand that they won’t have the pacifier after that. Don’t steal it away without any thought, but help the child understand the scenario then stick to your plan.
  3. Inventing a “binky fairy” or someone the pacifier needs to be given to is another excellent way. It can give your child a fun experience if they’re giving it away in exchange for a dollar, Christmas gifts or even to a new baby. It also helps explain where the pacifier went and why. When they may ask about it later on, they will remember the story or event and won’t feel surprised or confused.

All of these different methods have been used by countless parents countless times. Weaning your child off of a habit such as thumb sucking or a pacifier can be a lengthy process or a short one. Every child is different. Some methods will work for one and completely not work for another. Just pick a plan as the parents, discuss it with the child and then stick to the plan so no one gets caught off guard or confused.

Dry Mouth: What It Is & How it Can Affect Your Teeth
Dry Mouth: What It Is & How it Can Affect Your Teeth

Dry mouth is an oral condition that is fairly self-explanatory: it is where there is not enough saliva production inside the mouth.

Saliva adds a very important element to virtually every function your mouth needs to do. When a bite of food enters the mouth, alongside chewing with teeth there are enzymes in spit that help begin breaking down food before it even enters the stomach. This aids in not only swallowing properly but digestion as well.

The saliva glands continue producing day and night to help wash away leftover debris between meals. This helps keep teeth clean and is our body’s natural, initial defense against cavities. Build-up from the bacteria in saliva is what causes plaque, which is why we have to brush our teeth manually at least once a day. But if we didn’t have saliva, we would have to brush and wash away debris much more frequently!

Not only is saliva helpful with eating and preserving teeth, but it keeps the mouth well lubricated for speaking, and prevents the tongue and gums from drying out and cracking. It is crucial that the tongue always stays wet – if it doesn’t, taste buds don’t work properly! Yes – we actually could not taste food very well without spit!

Amazingly enough, our body actually produces less saliva when we sleep at night. If you sleep with your mouth open, you might notice that you will drool a little bit at night. But if you’ve ever woken up with cotton mouth, it’s because not only did leftover moisture leave the mouth (drool) but the production of saliva reduces significantly.

There are a couple ways that we can experience temporary dry mouth: dehydration, stress, or sleeping with your mouth open. But when dry mouth persists, it is known as a clinical condition called xerostomia (zehr-ehs-toh-mee-ah), which is much more serious.

Xerostomia is caused primarily by certain medications. There are over 500 prescription and over-the-counter drugs that can affect fluid regulation in the body, such as allergy medicines (antihistamines). It can also be caused by antidepressants, and chemotherapy drugs.

The common misconception is that mostly elderly people get dry mouth, which simply isn’t true. Many individuals who take the above medications are susceptible; and cancer, allergies, and mood disorders can appear at any age.

Radiation treatments to the head and neck (for cancer found in these areas) can also cause permanent damage to the glands. Other diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, cystic fibrosis, and AIDS can also have dry mouth as an added ailment.

If you think you or your child may have dry mouth, here are some steps you can take:

  • If you or your child take a regular medication(s), tell your doctor about the dryness you are experiencing and see if dry mouth is one of the side effects.
  • Take regular sips of fluid. It is imperative that your mouth continually stay moist and wash away food debris throughout the day. Water is always best.
  • Sleep with a humidifier in the room. This can be really soothing, especially if you are prone to sleeping with your mouth open.
  • Don’t smoke. This will definitely aggravate the dryness!
  • Practice good oral hygiene. Remember when we said that if we didn’t have saliva, we’d have to brush more frequently?! That’s because with dry mouth there lacks a natural way for food and bacteria to be consistently flushed out.
  • Don’t forget to see your dentist twice a year. This is just a good practice, whether you have dry mouth or not!
Can Dental X-Rays Be Harmful?
Can Dental X-Rays Be Harmful?

As a parent, there is a natural concern or even objection to your child having x-rays on their teeth. Can’t radiation be extremely harmful to children? Is it even necessary?

All dental experts agree: No to the first question, yes to the second. The first objection is perhaps the most common, and the most obvious concern. Children get their first tooth often before their first birthday. Isn’t it dangerous to expose an infant to radiation?

Here are the facts. In comparison to other ways bones and other internal organs are examined, x-rays are the most comfortable and fastest way to examine anything inside the body – and most importantly, identify a particular issue if there is one.

The whole process to capture the x-ray is only a few seconds and cannot be felt at all. Dental experts agree that there can be far more damage in the avoidance of x-rays. This is because they can detect issues and potential issues regular dental instruments can not, and can allow the dentist to identify cavities, view emerging adult or wisdom teeth, catch early decay, and even small fractures in the case of an injury.

Without the use of x-rays, the detection, prevention, and resolution of these issues would be nearly non-existent – and ultimately, more detrimental – costing you more money and your child more pain in the long-run. Cavities and decay especially can occur between teeth or in places not visible by a regular probe. In the case of a damaged root or a tooth that is positioned improperly under the surface of the gums, this is impossible to identify and treat without x-rays.

If this quick and painless process has any discomfort whatsoever, it’s the measures taken to ensure your child is positioned properly for the brief moment is takes to capture the x-rays. The dentist or pediatric dentist will most likely explain to your child that they are going to take a picture of their teeth and in order to capture this they have to sit very, very still. This way, the child is not frightened and is more inclined to move as little as possible for the few seconds the machine is obtaining the images.

These examinations only take place usually once a year (every other semi-annual appointment) which means the amount of x-rays passing through are incredibly spread out. Not only that, your child will wear a weighted lead vest during this process to protect the rest of their body. Truly, however, the vest is very strictly precautionary.

If you have any further concerns about x-rays, do not hesitate to talk to your child’s dentist at their next appointment. Chances are they will reassure you that x-rays are risk-free and necessary to monitor a growing smile closely and effectively.

What Toothpaste is Best for Toddlers?
What Toothpaste is Best for Toddlers?

Is the kind of toothpaste we use really that big of a deal?

While many come dentist-recommended, one of the most important things you can do for your smile everyday is to brush your teeth, regardless of whatever you are using to do this.

If you have a toothbrush that is able to get every nook and cranny of your mouth, it’s crucial that you are using it to get any bacteria and buildup off of your teeth. Most toothpastes have a bacteria-fighting agent in them that aid you in doing this. If you’ve ever brushed without any toothpaste, you may have noticed a difference as to how much less time it takes for your mouth to feel “gross” again.

Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

When it comes to children brushing their teeth, it’s important that as soon as their first tooth comes in that you begin brushing it for them until they are old enough to do it on their own. While still in infancy, do NOT use toothpaste with fluoride, but use a gentle, baby-sized toothbrush with water (or fluoride-free baby toothpaste).

Once a child is 3 years old, then you can begin using toothpaste with fluoride. This helps build up the enamel and makes teeth strong. Be sure that you are only placing a pea-sized portion on the toothbrush up until they are about 7. This prevents swallowing too much and can also aid in preventing fluorosis; a minor cosmetic issue that occurs on the surface of the teeth if a build-up of fluoride begins incurring. It basically looks like brown or white spots appearing on the enamel.

According to the American Dental Association, here are the top recommended brands for kids that won’t break the bank:

  • Crest® Pro-Health Stages® Disney Princess Toothpaste – This toothpaste is guaranteed to fight against cavities, and the mild gel formula has been kid tested and approved. The packaging features Disney characters, which all children love.
  • Aquafresh® Fresh ‘N Fruity – The subtle flavors of this brand makes it a great transition toothpaste for toddlers coming out of infancy. It gently cleans vulnerable new teeth and includes fluoride for cavity protection. This toothpaste is suitable for children three years and older; supervised use is recommended.
  • Colgate Children’s 2-in-1 toothpaste – This toothpaste is approved by the American Dental Association and is recommended best for children over the age of five. It is a liquid gel formula that is kids are known to love and comes in a variety of flavors to suit their individual tastes. It provides dual benefits as both a toothpaste and a mouthwash that protects your kids’ teeth against cavities.
  • Tom’s of Maine, Natural Anti-Cavity Toothpaste for Children – This brand has a defense mechanism against bacteria and acids. There are no artificial preservatives, dyes or saccharine in this toothpaste and it contains real fruit juice to make it taste great for kids.

Source: Children’s Dental