During this time of year, many of us dust off traditional family recipes and make our favorite holiday treats. There is, however, a small price to pay for all that nostalgic goodness in the shape of a few extra pounds to deal with in the new year. We may also be increasing the risk for something even more unpleasant: tooth decay.
The main cause, of course, is a certain carbohydrate integral to many holiday goodies: sugar. We humans love it, but so do oral bacteria that readily devour any sugar lingering in our mouth after eating. This fuels bacterial reproduction, which in turn increases the production of acid that softens tooth enamel.
There are a number of strategies you can follow to reduce this effect. You can remove sugar completely from your holiday preparations—and risk family and friends “voting you off the island.” Or, you can try these tips for easing the impact of holiday sugar on your dental health.
Look for ways to reduce sugar. Just because you're not throwing the sugar bowl out the window doesn't mean you have to go all out using it. Instead, try to modify older recipes (or look for newer versions) to decrease the amount of sugar in candies and baked goods. You may also consider alternative sweeteners like sucralose that tolerate high baking temperatures.
Balance savory with sweet. Not all holiday treats need to be sweet—you can add items that take advantage of more savory seasonings. For example, try offering up popcorn with a sprinkling of cinnamon or other holiday spice, or a creative assortment of cheeses (which in turn promote saliva flow to neutralize acid).
Combine treats with mealtimes. Continuous snacking may be part of the holiday tradition, but it can also raise the risk for tooth decay. Acidity increases when we eat, but saliva normally neutralizes it within thirty minutes to an hour. However, saliva can get overwhelmed during continuous snacking, resulting in longer periods of high acidity that damages tooth enamel. Instead, try to combine snack times with mealtimes.
Don't neglect your oral hygiene. Even though things can get hectic during the holidays, make a point of keeping up daily brushing and flossing. Regular hygiene keeps dental plaque, a thin film of harmful bacteria and food particles (including sugar), from building up on your teeth. Reducing plaque lowers your overall decay risk. Attention to oral health through your day-to-day dental hygiene routine along with regular professional cleanings and checkups is the best thing you can do to avoid dental disease.
The holidays should be a joyous time for you and your family. They can also be a healthy time for your teeth and gums, if you minimize the role of sugar in your holiday treats.
If you would like more information about boosting your dental health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Nutrition & Oral Health” and “The Bitter Truth About Sugar.”
There are a lot of things we do without much conscious thought — habits we've developed over time. Some habits help streamline our lives for the good; others, though, hold us back or even harm us. A lot of these habits, both good and bad, form during our childhood years.
That's why it's important for you to guide your children into forming good habits. The goal is that when they're adults they'll “own” these habits, and their life will be healthier and happier because of them.
One particular area of habit-forming focus is dental care. It's essential your children develop good habits caring for their teeth and gums. The most important is a daily routine of brushing and flossing.
Brushing and flossing has one primary aim: to remove bacterial plaque, a thin film of food particles that builds up on tooth surfaces. Bacteria in plaque are the main cause for two potentially devastating diseases, tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. Allowing plaque to build up over just a few days can trigger an infection that inflames the gums or softens enamel leading to tooth decay. Left untreated these diseases can ultimately cause tooth and bone loss.
A daily habit of brushing and flossing, along with semi-annual professional cleanings, can drastically reduce a person's risk for these diseases. It's best to instill these habits and their importance as soon as your child's teeth begin to erupt in the mouth.
In the beginning, you'll be performing the habit for them: for children two and younger use a slight smear of toothpaste on the brush. As they get older, you can increase it to pea size. Eventually you'll want to help them learn to brush on their own. In this case, modeling the behavior — both of you brushing your teeth together — will have the biggest impact and help them see how important the habit really is.
Before you know it, brushing and flossing will become second nature, a habit they'll begin doing on their own without being told. Once instilled, it'll be a habit they'll practice long after they leave your care — and one they'll hopefully pass on to their own children.
If you would like more information on proper dental care for your child, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”
Your sweet, happy baby has suddenly become a gnawing, drooling bundle of irritation. Don't worry, though, no one has switched babies on you. Your child is teething.
For most children, their first teeth begin breaking through the gums around six to nine months. Usually by age three all twenty primary (“baby”) teeth have erupted. While the duration and intensity of teething differs among children, there are some common symptoms to expect.
Top of the list, of course, is irritability from pain, discomfort and disrupted sleep. You'll also notice increased gnawing, ear rubbing, decreased appetite, gum swelling or facial rash brought on by increased saliva (drooling). Teething symptoms seem to increase about four days before a tooth begins to break through the gums and taper off about three days after.
You may occasionally see bluish swellings along the gums known as eruption cysts. These typically aren't cause for concern: Â the cyst usually “pops” and disappears as the tooth breaks through it. On the other hand, diarrhea, body rashes or fever are causes for concern — if these occur you should call us or your pediatrician for an examination.
While teething must run its course, there are some things you can do to minimize your child's discomfort:
Provide them a clean, soft teething ring or pacifier to gnaw or chew — a wet washcloth (or a cold treat for older children) may also work. Chill it first to provide a pain-reducing effect, but don't freeze it — that could burn the gums.
Use a clean finger to massage swollen gums — gently rubbing the gums helps counteract the pressure caused by an erupting tooth.
Alleviate persistent pain with medication — With your doctor's recommendation, you can give them a child's dosage of acetaminophen or ibuprofen (not aspirin), to take the edge off teething pain.
There are also things you should not do, like applying rubbing alcohol to the gums or using products with Benzocaine®, a numbing agent, with children younger than two years of age. Be sure you consult us or a physician before administering any drugs.
While it isn't pleasant at the time, teething is part of your child's dental development. With your help, you can ease their discomfort for the relatively short time it lasts.
If you would like more information on relieving discomfort during teething, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teething Troubles.”
The monarchs of the world experience the same health issues as their subjects—but they often tend to be hush-hush about it. Recently, though, the normally reticent Queen Elizabeth II let some young dental patients in on a lesser known fact about Her Majesty's teeth.
While touring a new dental hospital, the queen told some children being fitted for braces that she too “had wires” once upon a time. She also said, “I think it's worth it in the end.”
The queen isn't the only member of the House of Windsor to need help with a poor bite. Both Princes William and Harry have worn braces, as have other members of the royal family. A propensity for overbites, underbites and other malocclusions (poor bites) can indeed pass down through families, whether of noble or common lineage.
Fortunately, there are many ways to correct congenital malocclusions, depending on their type and severity. Here are 3 of them.
Braces and clear aligners. Braces are the tried and true way to straighten misaligned teeth, while the clear aligner method—removable plastic mouth trays—is the relative “new kid on the block.” Braces are indeed effective for a wide range of malocclusions, but their wires and brackets make it difficult to brush and floss, and they're not particularly attractive. Clear aligners solve both of these issues, though they may not handle more complex malocclusions as well as braces.
Palatal expanders. When the upper jaw develops too narrowly, a malocclusion may result from teeth crowding into too small a space. But before the upper jaw bones fuse together in late childhood, orthodontists can fit a device called a palatal expander inside the upper teeth, which exerts gentle outward pressure on the teeth. This encourages more bone growth in the center to widen the jaw and help prevent a difficult malocclusion from forming.
Specialized braces for impacted teeth. An impacted tooth, which remains partially or completely hidden in the gums, can impede dental health, function and appearance. But we may be able to coax some impacted teeth like the front canines into full eruption. This requires a special orthodontic technique in which a bracket is surgically attached to the impacted tooth's crown. A chain connected to the bracket is then looped over other orthodontic hardware to gradually pull the tooth down where it should be.
Although some techniques like palatal expanders are best undertaken in early dental development, people of any age and reasonably good health can have a problem bite corrected with other methods. If you are among those who benefit from orthodontics, you'll have something in common with the Sovereign of the British Isles: a healthy, attractive and straighter smile.
Tooth decay can be a big problem for children's primary (baby) teeth. It doesn't take long for a tooth to become infected and the infection spread to their neighbors.
But since it will eventually give way to a permanent tooth, why not just pull a diseased primary tooth? Although that sounds sensible, there are important reasons for helping a troubled primary tooth survive to its natural end.
Current usefulness. They may not be around for long, but primary teeth serve children well while they have them. They enable a child to eat solid foods to further their physical development. They also figure prominently in speech development, which could be stunted by lost teeth.
The smile factor. Young children are also honing their social skills, and smiling is an important part of learning to fit in with family and friends. A tooth that's missing for some time, especially in the “smile zone,” could affect their smile and have an adverse effect on their social development.
Future teeth health. A primary tooth reserves the space intended for the future permanent tooth, helping to ensure the incoming tooth erupts in the right position. If it's not there, however, other teeth can drift into the space, crowding the incoming tooth out of its proper alignment.
That last reason could have the most long-term effect, causing the development of a poor bite that could require extensive orthodontic treatment. To avoid this and any other physical or social consequences accompanying its premature loss, it's worth the effort to try to protect and save a primary tooth.
Preventively, we can apply sealants on biting surfaces more prone to plaque buildup (the main cause of decay) and topical fluoride to strengthen enamel. When decay does occur, we may be able to remove it and fill the tooth, cap a tooth with a steel crown, or even use a modified root canal procedure in the case of advanced tooth decay.
The best way, however, to protect your child's primary teeth is to brush and floss them every day. Removing harmful plaque vastly reduces the risk of tooth decay. Coupled with professional dental care, your child can avoid tooth decay and get the most out of their primary teeth.
If you would like more information on children's dental care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Importance of Baby Teeth.”
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