Most parents know about Early Childhood Caries (or cavities), also known as ECC. However, did you know covered cups for small children – notably sippy cups – can be detrimental to young teeth, too?

Early Childhood Caries also goes by another name: Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. ECC occurs when sugary foods and liquids create the thin film of bacteria known as plaque. Plaque produces acids that attack tooth enamel – for 20 minutes or longer after a meal – and create cavities. Protecting baby teeth from cavities is important because healthy teeth help young children learn to chew and speak.

Protecting baby teeth from cavities is important because healthy teeth help young children learn to chew and speak.

Sippy cups increase rthe isk of Early Childhood Caries in children.

Early Childhood Caries Risk: Sippy cups and baby bottles concentrate pools of sugary liquids at the teeth.

Sippy cups and baby bottles concentrate pools of sugary liquids at the teeth, increasing the likelihood of the development of cavities in small children. And though sippy cups are a nice transition from bottle feeding – and less likely to cause orthodontic issues than bottles or pacifiers – they’re just as bad as bottles with regard to forming cavities.

Why? They’re portable for a toddler, who’s likely to keep that sippy cup mouthpiece in his or her mouth just as frequently as a bottle – whether on the go or falling asleep.

Tips for avoiding early childhood caries

The solution for avoiding these kinds of cavities is fortunately fairly simple:

  • No bedtime food, cups or bottles. In addition to limiting the exposure of your child’s teeth to sugars, this limits choking hazards.
  • As soon as possible, get your child used to drinking from a non-sippy cup. Try not to use a sippy cup as a pacifier.
  • If you feel you must use a sippy cup, fill it only with water – never with sugary juices or liquids – and offer it only at mealtime or when your child’s thirsty. This will help limit the habit of carrying the cup around all the time.
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Finally, practice good oral hygiene methods to keep your toddler’s teeth clean and free of cavities. Brushing twice a day with an appropriately sized toothbrush and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste (approximately pea-sized) is a great start. Limit sugary snacks and beverages. And, of course, be sure to schedule regular visits to your child’s dentist for check-ups and cleanings.

Avoiding cavities is essential for all of us, but for our toddlers it’s particularly important. By keeping an eye on not only what they eat and drink, but how they do it, we can do our part to keep their mouths free of cavities for a lifetime.

Have you broken the sippy cup habit with your toddler? Leave a comment below to share what worked best for you!

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Dental Care When Babies Become Tweens and Tweens Become Teens

Not to freak you out, but a study from the University of Manchester in England found that one uncovered toothbrush stored in a bathroom could be home to more than 100 million bacteria. The same study found the presence of dreaded E. coli bacteria, which is notorious for causing diarrhea, as well as staphylococci bacteria, which can cause skin infections.

Toothbrushes may be home to nasty bacteria.

Learn about keeping the bacteria on your toothbrush under control.

So, if our toothbrushes are harboring so much nasty bacteria, how are we supposed to keep our teeth clean?!

Let’s look at the facts, shall we? First of all, the purpose of brushing your teeth is to remove bacteria that cause plaque from our teeth. So, technically speaking, a toothbrush is going to come out of our mouths “dirty.” That’s just good dental hygiene. Further, the mouth is naturally home to millions of microorganisms, anyway, so it’s not like our bodies can’t take a little bacteria. What’s important about this study is that we should be vigilant about  our efforts for toothbrush care.

Another fact: brushing your teeth most often occurs in a bathroom. Bathrooms have toilets. Toilets have bacteria (notably E. coli, which can be found in fecal matter). Gross. But there it is. Keep your toothbrush away from the toilet for optimal dental hygiene.

Can you get sick brushing your teeth with a microorganism-infested toothbrush? Probably not. A healthy body’s natural defenses can keep most bacteria at bay.

HOWEVER:

Yet another fact: If you share your toothbrush with someone else, their bacteria get on your toothbrush. That’s not good dental hygiene, especially if they’re sick or you’re sick or immunocompromised in any way (on chemo therapy, for example). And because sometimes we get sick without showing symptoms right away, sharing a toothbrush is a big no-no. And that means sharing with anyone. Someone else’s bacteria don’t care if a new mouth belongs to your boyfriend or wife or kid. It will likely upset the balance of bacteria in that new mouth, and that’s where trouble begins.

Toothbrush care tips

Keeping the bacteria on your toothbrush under control is not all that hard to do. Here are some toothbrush care tips:

  • Change your toothbrush (or electric toothbrush head) every three to four months – more frequently if you or your child are sick. The ADA recommends it for optimal dental hygiene, so you should do it. Period.
  • Rinse your toothbrush with water after brushing your teeth. Toothbrush sanitizers currently on the market are acceptable, as well, but not necessarily any better.
  • Let your toothbrush dry properly. Avoid using any kind of toothbrush cover or cap after brushing your teeth, which can create a moist bacteria breeding-ground. Just allow the brush to air dry.
  • Store your toothbrush upright and “alone.”  When you place a toothbrush on a counter top to dry, whatever bacteria lives on that counter could migrate to your toothbrush. Also, keeping multiple toothbrushes in a cup increases the likelihood of their touching, thus swapping germs.
  • No sharing. Children and adults should have their own, easily identifiable toothbrushes.

Remember: your teeth need to be brushed.  They won’t clean themselves.

It’s important to remember that your teeth need to be brushed.  They don’t clean themselves. Good dental hygiene means removing plaque-forming bacteria by brushing your teeth. Follow these few basic toothbrush care guidelines and all you’ll have to worry about is what color your toothbrush is.

Do you have any personal tips or tricks for staying on top of oral hygiene? Leave a comment below to share your insights!

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Everybody wants their smile to be as white as possible, right? And by now we’re all well aware of cosmetic dentistry’s various teeth-whitening options, from whitening toothpastes to bleaching.

White teeth and bright smiles may be marred by foods.

Keep a white, bright smile by watching what you eat and drink.

But keeping a white, bright smile can also depend on what we eat and drink. Knowing what those foods are, and why they can stain our teeth, can provide insights about how to keep teeth white.

There are a few factors that make certain foods stain-worthy. First are molecules called chromogens. These intensely pigmented molecules can easily attach themselves to dental enamel. Chromogens are found in red wine, coffee, colas, berries and sauces.

Foods and beverages with a high acidity level can also open the door to staining. Acidic products erode dental enamel and soften teeth for easier chromogen attachment. Other chromogen enablers, called tannins, are often found in tea, wine and berries.

Cosmetic dentistry follows a pretty simple standard regarding teeth staining foods: If you think it’ll stain your white tablecloth, it’ll probably stain your teeth.

Watching what kind of stain-enhancers you consume can enhance your smile for years to come.

Foods That Stain Teeth

Here are some foods and beverages to look out for:

  • Coffee/Tea: Tannins in teas are stain enablers, while coffee is rich in chromogens. Some dentists feel tea has the potential for worse staining than coffee because of the damage tannins can do to enamel.
  • Wine: Red wine is both acidic and tannin and chromogen-rich.  It’s a triple threat on the stain scale! White wine is a little sneakier, promoting an environment where other food compounds, like those found in teas, can better stain teeth.
  • Sauces: Watch out for soy, tomato and curry sauces, as well as any sauce that appears deeply colored.
  • Berries: Dark berries (blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, etc.) and the juices and foods made from them are going to contribute to teeth staining.
  • Sports drinks and colas: Both these drink types are highly acidic, even when they’re clear or lightly colored. Sipping one at your desk all day long? Don’t be surprised if your teeth start to stain.
  • Sweets: Cosmetic dentistry has another rule of thumb on this one: if it stains your tongue, it’s probably going to stain your teeth.

Tips to help keep your teeth whiter

So, are you going to have to give up your favorite soy sauce soaked sushi? Or cut out wine altogether? No! Here are a few simple tips to help keep your teeth whiter without having to eat or drink like a monk:

  • Practice a little moderation. If you find yourself consuming a lot of the foods listed above, think about cutting back or finding a non-staining alternative half the time.
  • Swallow. That’s right, when you swallow what you’re eating or drinking promptly, you minimize your teeth’s exposure to stain-causing foods.
  • Try a straw. Following the theory of limited exposure, using a straw can protect your front teeth, especially from staining beverages.
  • Follow up with a swish of water. Cleaning out your mouth after a meal is a good idea to avoid plaque build-up, generally. With regard to acidic foods and beverages, swishing with water is actually preferable to brushing after a meal because acids make teeth vulnerable for up to 30 minutes after they’re consumed. Brushing can contribute to damaging the enamel if done too soon after an acidic meal or drink.
  • Get chewing! Sugarless gum after a meal is an effective food particle and stain-agent remover.

Of course, you need to keep brushing and flossing daily, and avoid all the other things that can weaken enamel or cause staining (we’re looking at you, smokers and tobacco chewers). Your own personal approach to cosmetic dentistry (watching what kind of stain-enhancers you consume, that is) can enhance your smile for years to come.

What are you doing to protect your teeth against stains? How’s that working? Share your experience in a comment below!

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Orthodontia typically is associated more with discomfort and expense than a beautiful smile. But today’s braces are far from the torturous devices of horror movies – and often not nearly as terrifying to our bank accounts.

…newer materials and techniques have made many orthodontic appliances much more comfortable than they’ve ever been…

Regular dental checkups usually determine whether you or your child needs a visit to the orthodontist. Straight teeth are important for more than merely cosmetic reasons: they’re easier to clean and therefore less susceptible to tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health issues, which can become quite problematic if allowed to worsen. Braces, if recommended, can be an essential part of good dental hygiene.

The cost of braces

The average cost of braces depends on various factors.

The average cost of braces varies, depending on your needs, age, and the type of braces desired.

The cost of braces varies, depending on your needs, age, and type of braces desired. A broad figure of $5,000 is the norm, but additional costs may be incurred for lingual (behind the teeth) braces, ceramic brackets (which are less visible), molds, x-rays and extractions (to make room for moving teeth).

The process can last anywhere from a few months to two years. The good news is many types of dental plans cover orthodontia. Dental discount cards and dental health maintenance organizations (DHMOs) are best for offsetting the cost of braces. Your orthodontist will also likely offer payment plan options.

Contrary to the general perception that braces are painful, newer materials and techniques have made many orthodontic appliances much more comfortable than they’ve ever been, requiring fewer adjustments and office visits.

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It’s important to remember that braces aren’t just for children. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, one in five orthodontic patients is an adult. The biological process of correcting misaligned teeth is the same no matter the patient’s age.

With proper care, our teeth can last a lifetime. By understanding what goes into maintaining a healthy mouth, we ensure our smiles for years to come!

Did you wear braces to correct a misalignment? Are you glad you did? Share a comment below!

Early gum disease detection may help avoid more serious problems.

Detecting gum disease early is the best bet for avoiding more serious complications and dangers of gum disease down the road.

Gum disease can become a serious problem for one’s oral health. Bacterially-infected gums and soft tissues, if left untreated, can deteriorate to the point of tooth loss. But studies point to even larger dangers.

Let’s start with a definition. In its earliest, mildest form, gum disease is known as gingivitis – an inflammation of gum tissue caused by a buildup of plaque (the sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth after eating).

At this stage, gum disease is characterized by red, swollen gums that sometimes bleed. It’s generally reversible by daily flossing and brushing.

Gingivitis, however, can develop into a much more serious form of disease known as periodontitis. Periodontitis occurs when plaque turns into a harder substance at the gum line called calculus or tartar.

When tartar builds up in the v-shaped crevice between tooth and gums (the sulcus), periodontitis can develop and damage the supporting tissues of the tooth, resulting in possible extraction.

Gum disease: The mouth-body connection

Gum disease is inflammatory in nature. Research indicates that there is an association between gum disease and other inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory diseases. There is a mouth-body connection that many dentists and physicians watch closely for the overall improvement of their patient’s health.

Gum disease in those with high risk factors for other inflammatory conditions can likely exacerbate those conditions. For example, the oral bacteria that cause gum disease can be transmitted to heart tissue and lung tissue either through inhalation or through the blood stream. In the heart, this can increase arterial inflammation or attach to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries, leading to heart attack or stroke. People with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) or pneumonia can see their conditions worsened by the inhalation of oral bacteria originating with gum disease.

…if you suspect gum disease, and you’re at risk for, or have any other type of inflammatory disease, make your condition known immediately.

Diabetics are more likely to have gum disease than non-diabetics due to their elevated risk of infection and compromised ability to recover. But they may also suffer diabetic complications from having gum disease. Severe gum disease can increase blood sugar, affecting already difficult blood glucose management issues in diabetics.

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Pregnant women are at risk of premature birth and low birth weight due to gum disease. Some studies have suggested that pregnant women with periodontal disease are more likely to deliver prematurely at a low birth weight. Women with osteoporosis may also suffer greater oral bone loss when gum disease is present.

Any serious condition should be brought to the attention of your dentist, but if you suspect gum disease, and you’re at risk for, or have any other type of inflammatory disease, make your condition known immediately. Detecting gum disease early is the best bet for avoiding more serious complications and dangers of gum disease down the road.

Have you recovered from gum disease through stepping up your oral health routine? Share a comment about your experience below!

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The Relationship between Diabetes and Periodontal Disease

Mention the word ‘cancer’ and most people shudder.  A common human response, we try to bury our heads in the sand or wish the concept away unless we actually have to deal with a diagnosis personally. But many cancers are curable when detected early – and oral cancer is no exception. Detecting oral cancer symptoms early can be instrumental in treatment.

Often beginning as a small white or red spot or sore – known as leukoplakia – anywhere in the mouth, oral cancer symptoms don’t necessarily require oral surgery to be detected. Most regular dental checkups include a visual and palpating check for early signs of oral cancer.

Oral cancer prevention benefits from regular dentist visits.

Maintaining regular dental visits is the first and best defense against oral cancer.

If cancerous, these cells can spread to neighboring healthy tissues and grow into a tumor. Later stages of oral cancer can then take hold in lymph nodes, bone, muscle, or other organs. Left untreated, oral cancer can cause disfigurement and even death.

Other potential oral cancer symptoms include the following:

  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together
  • Oral sores that bleed easily or don’t heal
  • Lumps, thickening, rough spots, or crusty or eroded areas in the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing, chewing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue.

Maintaining regular dental visits is the first and best defense against oral cancer. Your dentist is trained to detect oral cancer in its earliest stages and can test further for suspicious growths or conditions. Should something appear abnormal, a simple brush test may be ordered, which collects suspect cells for further analysis in a lab. Oral surgery may be necessary to biopsy the area later.

Other tests, such as a white light test and multi-spectral light test may be used on patients pre-disposed to cancers or at risk for oral cancer. Referral to a pathologist may be recommended for an accurate assessment.

Maintaining regular dental visits is the first and best defense against oral cancer. 

Should an oral cancer diagnosis result from your tests, oral surgery will likely be a necessity. Oral surgeries for oral cancer can include removal of the tumor and surrounding tissues, removal of all or part of the jaw, lymph node removal in the neck, removal of bone in the roof of the mouth, tracheotomy, tooth removal, or plastic surgery to restore removed tissue.

In addition to oral surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be ordered to shrink tumors or increase the effectiveness of the other procedures.

The best advice for preventing oral cancer is to avoid using tobacco and alcohol. Visit your dentist regularly to ensure proper examination and catch oral cancer as soon as possible. More than half of all patients diagnosed with oral cancer are already experiencing its spread to other parts of the body, complicating recovery. Avoiding that spread is as simple as showing up for a checkup.

Have you or someone you know successfully recovered from oral cancer? Share your experience in a comment below!

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