Tips to Prepare Your Child for Their First Dental Visit

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It’s important to schedule your child’s first dental visit before their first birthday. At that point, children’s baby teeth are starting to appear and are susceptible to decay and cavities. Although their baby teeth are not permanent, decay in baby teeth can lead to an increase in the risk of decay to their permanent teeth once they start to develop.

Many new parents are surprised by this recommendation, but they also don’t realize that preschool-aged children are getting more cavities. In fact, 25 percent of kids had a cavity by age four in the United States. Cavities are appearing in children as early as two years old.

Why Baby Teeth Are Important

Parents who have never taken their child to the dentist often are surprised to find out that baby teeth (also called primary teeth) need to stay in place until they naturally fall out. Baby teeth are important for a number of reasons:

  • Helping proper chewing
  • Speech development
  • Saving space for permanent teeth
  • Supporting a healthy smile

Preparing for the Initial Visit to the Dentist

Preparation is a key to a successful first dental appointment for your child. Be sure to contact your dentist prior to your child’s first visit to discuss the procedures at the office so you avoid surprises. Have the dental office send you the forms you need to fill out for your child ahead of time. Or if they have online forms, use that option.

Be sure to discuss your child’s first visit to the dentist in a relaxed and positive manner. They will pick up on any negative feeling you have about dental offices, so maintaining a patient and calm approach to their questions is important.

Help your child practice brushing their teeth prior to the first visit so they will be used to the feel in their mouth of a toothbrush. Learn as much as you can about a child’s first dental visit and their oral health before you take them to the dentist for the first time. Delta Dental has a great set of resources on their website at www.mysmilekids.com. It’s filled with fun activities and interesting stories to teach kids about their teeth.

Send a list of any medical issues that affect your child to your dentist, along with a list of medications they take. Keep the phone number for your child’s pediatrician easily accessible in case your dentist asks for additional health information.

Finally, bring your child’s most-loved blanket, toy or stuffed animal so that they feel secure and comforted on their first visit to the dentist. 

What to Expect At Your Child’s First Visit

Make sure to schedule your child’s first dental visit early in the day so that they are alert and feeling fresh. Expect a bit of fussing from your child during the visit, but many parents are surprised how easily their child accepts the dentist’s examination. In fact, many kids like the novelty of the visit and the extra attention.

Your dentist will check the development of your son’s or daughter’s teeth and look for any problems. They will do a thorough – but gentle exam of your child’s teeth, jaw, bite, gums and oral tissues.

This first visit is also a great time to chat with your dentist about tips for dental care for your child, including diet’s impact on oral health, risk of cavities, oral hygiene, use of fluoride, oral habits (thumb and finger sucking), and preventing trauma to their mouth.

Developing trust with successful visits to the dentist will provide your child with an important foundation for their future oral health. This will reduce potential anxiety and fear, which will make for plenty of stress-free visits in the future. Most experts recommend that children see the dentist about every six months so don’t forget to schedule your child’s second appointment on your way out the door!

Sources: Parents.com, KnowYourTeeth.com, Colgate.com, DeltaDentalIns.com

8 Tips to Help Your Kids Stop Sucking Their Thumbs and Avoid Oral Health Issues

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Sucking their thumb, fingers or a pacifier is a natural reflex for most children. It helps them fall asleep, calm down, or to just feel good. When they are babies, it is considered harmless in terms of a child's growth and speech development.

But how long should it go on? Should a child still be sucking their thumb or a pacifier when they are ready for preschool?

Generally, a child who is in the 2- to 4-year range will start to develop other coping skills beyond thumb or finger sucking, such as language development. These coping skills replace the need for a child to suck on a thumb or finger. But for some kids, thumb sucking or finger sucking is harder to kick, which could lead to problems for their growing mouths. Recent research shows that thumb or finger sucking can have an impact even at a younger age - as young as 2 to 4 years old – on the mouth and the jaw.

Remember, sucking their thumbs or fingers is a soothing activity that can help reduce their anxiety. For most children, growing up is filled with anxiety and change.

So if your child is approaching preschool and still sucking away, here's 8 tips on how to handle it correctly:

Try to limit the time that your child sucks their thumb to their bedroom or in the house, not in public. Explain to them that this is a bed activity during nap time and at night.

Don’t turn it into a confrontation. Try to recognize your child and praise them when they are not sucking their thumb instead of criticizing them when they are.

If your child is hurt or injured, don’t prohibit them from sucking their thumb or fingers. They need that comfort zone to cope.

Help your child practice self-awareness by pointing out to them when they are sucking their thumb or fingers. Offer them an option to soothe them, like a blanket or stuffed animal.

Avoid the gross-tasting stuff that is sold to stop thumb and finger sucking. It’s just creates more anxiety, which is the initial reason why your child is sucking their thumb.

Use creative methods to help your child understand that they are growing up and one day won't suck their thumb anymore. Ask your child if their favorite cartoon character sucks their thumb.

Don’t try a glove or a mitten on the hand as a quick-fix to thumb or finger sucking. This will just frustrate the child and cause more anxiety. Plus, they are old enough to just remove the glove or mitten themselves.

Be sure to remember that a child will grow out of the need for thumb sucking or finger sucking when they are good and ready.

SOURCE: WebMD

7 Ideas to Enhance Your Family’s Oral Health

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If tooth decay and gum disease are two oral health problems you want your family to avoid this year, then we have 7 great tips to help your family have a healthy year for their teeth and gums. Remember, most gum disease and tooth decay is preventable if you practice good oral hygiene habits. Make sure you and each member of your family spend a couple of minutes a day flossing and brushing and that you make good choices to enhance your oral health. For a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums, that’s not a lot to ask, is it?

Begin at six months. Start your child’s dental care around six months, which is when their first tooth generally appears. Initially, use a damp cloth or soft brush to wipe your baby’s teeth. Once a child turns two, they can brush for themselves with adult supervision.

Consider sealants. Just 33% of kids in the United States receive dental sealants, but it is a great way to protect your child’s permanent molars when they come in at age 6. The sealant is applied by your dentist to the chewing surfaces on the molars and provides protection against decay.

The daily duo. Be sure to brush twice a day and floss once a day to avoid gum disease and tooth decay. Gum disease has been linked to heart disease, so it’s not something you want in your mouth.

Finish your meals the right way. Rinse your mouth right after a meal with water and/or an antibacterial rinse. Another tip is to chew a piece of sugar-free gum right after you eat to enhance the flow of saliva, which washes away bacteria and reduces acid.

Practice smart eating. Be sure to include whole foods in your diet because they will provide your teeth and gums the nutrients they need to stay healthy. That means to be sure to eat nuts, grains, dairy products, vegetables and fruits on a daily basis.

Say no to soda. Sugary sodas are “double trouble” because of their high sugar content and because people tend to sip them over extended periods of time. Bacteria in your mouth love sugar, because they produce acid when they break down the sugar. Acid erodes the enamel on your teeth, which can then lead to decay.

See your dentist regularly. Make an appointment for a dental check-up and cleaning every six months if you want to stay on top of your oral health. Your dental hygienist will get rid of built-up plaque on your teeth and check for tooth decay. Your dentist will also check for signs of oral cancer or gum disease.

 

SOURCE: WebMD

 

Top Tips to Choosing the Best Toothbrush for Your Smile

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How do you decide what is the best toothbrush for your oral health needs? Do you go with a favorite color? Maybe the type of bristles – soft or hard? How the toothbrush feels in your hand when you are brushing?  Or the cost? All of those are important (even the color of your toothbrush) because you want to be sure that you are doing everything possible to encourage you to brush twice a day. Remember, if you are brushing twice a day for two minutes each time, you will end up spending about 1,000 hours during your lifetime brushing your teeth. You definitely want to give yourself every opportunity to make those hours as enjoyable as possible. 

Here are some simple tips to give you the best “toothbrush experience” possible:

When Should You Buy a New Toothbrush?

As soon as the bristles on your toothbrush begin to look worn or frayed, buy a new one. That usually happens every three months if you are brushing regularly. Remember, a worn-out toothbrush isn’t helping to keep your teeth clean. After an illness replace your toothbrush because germs can linger and make you sick again. Also, if you can’t remember the last time you changed your toothbrush, it’s probably time for a new one.

The Parts of a Toothbrush – Bristles, Head Shape and Handle

Bristles: Soft is Safe

Most dentists agree on using a toothbrush with soft bristles and to brush gently. You may think that scrubbing your teeth with a stiff-bristle toothbrush will improve your oral health, but you’re probably wrong. Instead, you’ll end up damaging your teeth and gums. How? The hard bristles will cause gum tissue to pull back from teeth, which can expose the tooth root and lead to increased sensitivity to heat, cold or certain foods and drinks. Plus the hard bristles will create damage to enamel on teeth, which can leave them exposed to cavity-causing plaque.

Head: Size Matters

Consider the toothbrush’s head shape when selecting your tool of choice. Some toothbrush shapes will suit some mouths better than others. Make sure the head allows your toothbrush bristles to comfortably reach your back molars, as some brush heads may be too large or wide. Brush in front of the mirror to make sure you cover every tooth. If it doesn’t, swap your toothbrush for one that does.

Handle: Get a Grip

The handle of the brush should be long enough to hold comfortably. It should neither be too thick nor too thin to hold. Some toothbrushes today have wide handles. This helps you control the toothbrush better. So, choose a toothbrush with a handle that is long enough and wide enough for you to use. 

Do You Go Cheap on What You Pay for Your Toothbrush?

Five no-name toothbrushes in a package may seem like a steal at a handful of pennies each, but consider the risks. Seeing as you put a toothbrush in your mouth two or more times per day, it’s worth going with a reputable manufacturer. If you buy a cheap toothbrush, you may be getting a product could be from a manufacturer who doesn't care about safety or efficacy. Plus, the toothbrushes could be made of inferior or unsafe materials. Bottom line, cheap toothbrushes are better suited for cleaning grout than oral hygiene. 

Why Is the ADA Way Important?

Buy toothbrushes that have the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. A company earns the ADA Seal for its product by producing scientific evidence that the product is safe and effective. The ADA Council on Scientific Affairs carefully evaluates the evidence according to objective guidelines for toothbrushes.

Does Color Matter?

Sure it does if color is important to you. Using an icky-colored toothbrush won’t motivate you to brush twice a day. Buy one that has a color attractive to you!

The Bottom Line on Selecting Your Toothbrush

At the end of the day, the best toothbrush is the one you’ll actually use. That means the toothbrush handle should fit comfortably in your hand and the toothbrush head should feel comfortable in your mouth and be able to reach every tooth surface. Look for the ADA Seal, your assurance that the product has been objectively evaluated for safety and effectiveness. 

Sources: The American Dental Association (ADA)

 

 

Fight Kid’s Cavity Fright This Halloween

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Tricky Treats to Avoid and Good Oral Health Habits to Prevent Plaque

As the Halloween candy is being devoured, sugar and dental plaque can linger in the crevices in and between your child's teeth and cause cavities. Monitoring your child's sugar intake and ensuring regular brushing habits to remove plaque will help prevent tooth decay this Halloween and make your child's next visit to the dentist cavity-free.

Sugar has long been identified by oral health experts as a major cause of tooth decay and cavities. If not removed by brushing or some other means, naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth form a colorless, sticky film called plaque. Cavity-causing microorganisms within plaque feed on sugar and turn it into acid. This acid attacks tooth enamel and causes tooth decay.

Guidelines for Your Trick or Treaters

Here are a few guidelines to safeguard your little pirate's teeth against decay this Halloween:

Don't buy Halloween candy too far in advance to avoid the temptation for children (and adults) to get a head start on the splurge.

When buying candy for Halloween, look for treats that can be eaten quickly, like miniature candy bars.

Try to ensure children eat a good, hearty meal prior to trick-or-treating, so there will be less temptation to gorge on candy.

Encourage your child to eat a small amount in one sitting followed by a glass of water and thorough tooth brushing. It is not a good idea to allow your child to graze on candy from after school until dinner time as this will increase the amount of time sugar comes in contact with teeth.

Promote good oral health care habits year-round to your children by encouraging twice daily brushing with fluoridated toothpaste, flossing and getting regular dental checkups.

Beware of Hard or Sticky Candy

One of the worst types of candy in terms of your child’s oral health is hard or sticky candies like sugared fruit snacks, caramels, popcorn balls or lollipops. They are particularly damaging because they spend a prolonged amount of time stuck to teeth and are more difficult for teeth to break down. Plus, they can crack or chip a child’s tooth.

On the other hand, sweets like chocolate that quickly dissolve in the mouth and can be eaten easily lessen the amount of time sugar stays in contact with teeth

To help parents at Halloween, we offer a list of the most harmful to the safest treats your kids should be choosing from their trick-or-treat bag:

Sour Power – Sour candies are the absolute worst in that studies have revealed that the acids in sour candies are so destructive because they dissolve enamel on contact!

Hardly Harmless – Hard candy needs to be sucked on for an extended period of time and very chewy candies are harmful in that they get stuck between the teeth. Both hard and chewy candy allow bacteria to wreak havoc on your child’s teeth for a much longer period of time.

Resist Raisins – Don’t be fooled by their natural derivative. Raisins easily damage dental work because they are very sticky and do not mix well with fillings, braces or retainers.

Candy Bars Get Four Stars – While we can’t say candy bars are good for your oral health, they are less harmful because they are eaten quickly allowing less time for the sugar to damage with acid.

Dissolve Your Worry – Powder candy is fairly safe as the sugar dissolves quickly and makes little contact with the teeth.

Eat Two or Three if They’re Sugar Free – As obvious as it seems, sugar-free candy is the most highly recommended Halloween treat for your children’s teeth. You can even prevent cavities by chewing sugar free gum! Sugar free gum promotes increased saliva which neutralizes harmful bacteria.

 

Sources: DeltaDental.com

 

 

Sealants Can Stop Cavities Before They Begin

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A Process That Saves Time and Money on Expensive Dental Procedures

Dental sealants act as a barrier to prevent cavities. They are a plastic material usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often.

Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. But toothbrush bristles can’t always reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. And fluoride in toothpaste and in drinking water protects the smooth surfaces of teeth but back teeth need extra protection.

Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by "sealing out" plaque and food. The sugar in this food is used by germs in the mouth to make acids. Over time, the acids can make a cavity in the tooth.

 

Why Get Sealants?

A healthy tooth is the best tooth, so it is important to prevent decay. That's why sealants are so important. Having sealants put on teeth before they decay will also save time and money in the long run by avoiding fillings, crowns, or caps used to fix decayed teeth.

 

Who Should Get Sealants?

Children should get sealants on their permanent molars as soon as the teeth come in - before decay attacks the teeth.

The first permanent molars - called "6 year molars" - come in between the ages of 5 and 7.

The second permanent molars - "12 year molars" - come in when a child is between 11 and 14 years old. Other teeth with pits and grooves also might need to be sealed.

Baby teeth save space for permanent teeth. It is important to keep baby teeth healthy so they don't fall out early. Your dentist might think sealants are a good idea, especially if your child's baby teeth have deep pits and grooves.

 

Can Dental Sealants Be Placed on Adult Teeth?
Yes — while less common, dental sealants are sometimes placed in adults at risk for caries, on deep grooves and fissures that do not already have fillings or dental sealants.

 

How Are Sealants Applied?

Applying sealant is a simple and painless process. It takes only a few minutes for your dentist or hygienist to apply the sealant to seal each tooth. The application steps are as follows:

1.      First the teeth that are to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned.

2.      Each tooth is then dried, and cotton or another absorbent material is put around the tooth to keep it dry.

3.      An acid solution is put on the chewing surfaces of the teeth to roughen them up, which helps the sealant bond to the teeth.

4.      The teeth are then rinsed and dried.

5.      Sealant is then painted onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.

Even if a small cavity accidently gets covered the decay will not spread, because it is sealed off from its food and germ supply.

 

How Long Do Sealants Last?

Sealants can last up to 10 years. But they need to be checked at regular dental check-ups to make sure they are not chipped or worn away. The dentist or dental hygienist can repair sealants by adding more sealant material.

 

Do Sealants Prevent Gum Disease?

No. Dental sealants do not protect against gum disease such as gingivitis, oral cancer or many common dental conditions. Regular dental checkups are vital to monitor overall oral health.

 

Are Sealants Visible?

Sealants can only be seen up close. Sealants can be clear, white, or slightly tinted, and usually are not seen when a child talks or smiles.

 

Sources: MouthHealthy.org, National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research, KnowYourTeeth.com, Colgate, American Dental Association (ADA)

 

Holiday Oral Health Tips for Kids

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Child-Friendly Pointers On Opening Presents, Eating Sweets and Holiday Travel

It’s not easy keeping kid’s mouth healthy during the holidays. Chances are good that visions of cookies, desserts and candy canes may be dancing in your children's heads this holiday season. There are ways to keep your kids' teeth and gums in shape and to minimize damage to their dental health.

 

Teeth Are Not For Tots

Don’t let your kids crack nuts with their teeth: Although protein found in nuts helps keep muscles and bones strong, they shouldn’t test the strength of their teeth by shelling nuts. The hard surface of most nutshells can cause serious tooth and gum damage, and may even crack teeth. Your safest bet? Get a cool holiday nutcracker (they’re everywhere) and make shelling nuts fun for kids.

Use proper tools to open your child’s packages and bottles: We know kids get excited to rip into that gift from great-aunt Martha, but their teeth are not the right tools for the task. Gripping a package or stubborn bottle cap with teeth can crack them, possibly requiring a root canal and a crown. Help children by getting the wrapping off stubborn packages started for them and then let them tear away. Make sure you’re the one reaching for a scissors or bottle opener and not the kids.

 

Five Unhealthy Holiday Treats Kids Eat

Cookies, candy and sweet holiday beverages all have at least one main ingredient in common: sugar. You don’t need to cut your kids off from holiday goodies completely, but take a conservative approach to these sweets in particular.

1)      Candy Canes: The problem with eating candy canes is the prolonged period of time that they linger in your mouth. Not to mention, the temptation to chomp on them, which can lead to cracks or chips in your teeth.

2)      Christmas Cookies: It’s tempting to overindulge when there’s an abundance of baked goods. Cookies are laden with sugar and can do significant damage to your pearly whites. We know that skipping cookies entirely may be impossible. Just enjoy them in moderation.

3)      Holiday Drinks: Eggnog, hot apple cider and hot chocolate are festive beverages that offer more than warm, holiday cheer. Eggnog boasts over 20 grams of sugar per cup, while hot cider can pack over 65 grams of sugar when dressed up with caramel sauce and whip cream. Stick to one small serving of your kid’s favorite drink.

4)      Caramels: Chewy, sticky treats, such as grandma’s famous homemade caramels are particularly damaging, because they are high in sugar and spend a prolonged amount of time stuck to teeth. The same attributes apply to all of those sparkly gumdrops on your gingerbread house.

5)      Fruitcake: Even though it’s the butt of many holiday jokes, some people actually eat the fruitcake that gets passed around at holiday parties. Oral health reasons to avoid it include the sugary cake base and the chewy, candied fruit throughout.

 

Counter Sugary Effects

Sugarless gum: Sugarless gum (especially with xylitol) is great way to keep your kids' mouths busy while boosting saliva production, which will help wash away sugar. After treat time give your kids a stick for a healthy tooth wash.

Limit sugar time: Have special treat times during the day to limit the intake of sweets and so the holidays don’t become a sugar fest. You may also want to do as the French do and make cheese a part of dessert. Cheeses, such as mozzarella sticks, are not only kid friendly, they are also known to neutralize acid in the mouth, according to the American Dental Association.

Drink water and rinse to refresh: When you can't brush, rinse your mouth with tap water to wash away food particles and bacteria.

 

Holiday Travel

Make a kid-friendly dental travel kit: Nearly everything comes in a travel size and we’ve found that the activity of putting together a dental travel kit will encourage great habits while you are away from home.  Don’t forget to pack travel-sized mouthwash, floss and a toothbrush for everyone in the family. Your kids will love their own dental kit.  Help them to pick out a special brush and mini-toothpaste just for their time away.

Schedule a visit to the dentist before you leave: Last but not least, your child probably has time off from school around the holidays. This is a great time to schedule a cleaning and checkup with your children's dentist. As always, you can ask your dentist for additional tips on how to keep your kids' teeth healthy during the holidays.

 

Keep Your Routine

 Wherever you travel and whatever you decide to let your kids eat, don’t forget their regular dental habits.  It may be tempting to just go to bed after a long day of family fun, but forgetting their routine could mean no-so-fun dental problems later on. The holidays present a special opportunity to make dental health fun. Perhaps you can buy your children a toothbrush in holiday colors or a toothbrush that is decorated with their favorite cartoon character just for the season to make it special. Colored floss is also fun!

 

Sources: KidsHealthyTeeth.com, Delta Dental, DentalPatientNews.com

 

 

Eight Smile-Friendly Stocking Stuffers

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‘Tis the Season for Mouth Healthy Gifts!

Stockings are the perfect opportunity to sneak in that practical gift for a child or teenager and even impress your partner or friend with something thoughtful that lasts long after the Christmas tree comes down.

Include some of these items to see their faces – and smiles! – light up on Christmas morning (we have the first two available for purchase at Lehigh Valley Smile Designs):

Zoom Whitening Pen: Two applications a day will keep your smile looking great! Easy to use and can be taken anywhere.It requires no waiting after application.

UV Toothbrush Sanitizer: Zapi Luxe wobbles but the germs fall down.  This cute item kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria and sanitizes in just seven minutes.It has an automatic shut-off.

Xylitol-infused Chewing Gum: Gum containing the natural sweetener, Xylitol, is a particularly good option since studies have shown that consistent exposure to Xylitol can help prevent tooth decay.

Flavored Toothpaste: Uniquely-flavored toothpaste can provide a change of pace and get kids excited again about the prospect of brushing their teeth. Always make sure the toothpaste contains fluoride to fight tooth decay.

Flavored Floss and Mouthwash: Floss is normally pretty plain, but it doesn't have to be. Like toothpaste, there are many flavors to choose from like banana and cinnamon-flavored options for kids to enjoy.

Unique Toothbrush: Focus on getting the right toothbrush for the right family member for the best results - soft bristles for your toddler, favorite characters for school-aged kids and fun designs for picky teens should do the trick. There are even "smart" toothbrushes that light up or play tunes to let kids know how long they need to brush.

Fun Toothbrush Holder: Another way to get children brushing is by stuffing the stocking with fun oral health gifts like robot, tree or animal-shaped toothbrush holders that stick to walls. Kids like the characters and the holder provides a valuable and sanitary storage spot for their toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Sports Mouthguard: The quality of the mouthguard should be the primary concern, but there are plenty of fun colors and designs available to coordinate with a favorite team or uniform of any color.

By gifting them with dental-conscious stocking stuffers, you can ensure a new year of healthy smiles to come.

 

Sources: Delta Dental, Colgate

 

Can Chewing Gum Prevent Cavities?

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The Stick You Pick Can Either Harm or Help Your Teeth

Chewing gum in various forms has been around since ancient times. The Greeks chewed sap from the mastic tree, called mastiche. On the other side of the world, the ancient Mayans favored the sap of the sapodilla tree (called tsiclte). Native Americans chewed spruce sap—a habit they passed on to European settlers. Currently, the base used for most gum products is a blend of synthetic materials (elastomers, resins and waxes in various proportions). And today, chewing gum is more popular than ever.

The physical act of chewing increases the flow of saliva in your mouth. Increased salivary flow helps neutralize and wash away the acids that are produced when food is broken down by the bacteria in plaque on your teeth. Increased saliva flow also carries with it more calcium and phosphate to help strengthen tooth enamel.

So chewing gum is good for your teeth right? It is if you choose the right gum.

Sugary Gum

Chewing gum containing sugar actually increases your chances of developing a cavity because sugar is the very substance that plaque feeds on. Of course, chewing sugar-containing gum increases saliva flow, but the sugar is used by plaque bacteria to produce acids. Over time, acid can break down tooth enamel, creating conditions for decay. By chewing this type of gum you are literally bathing your teeth in sugar, giving plaque energy to develop and spread harmful acids in your mouth. While further research needs to be done to determine the effects of chewing sugar-containing gum on tooth decay, it’s safe to say prolonged exposure to sugar on your teeth can be harmful.

Sugar-Free Gum

However, there is clinical evidence that proves just the opposite for sugar-free gum. Studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals and snacks can help prevent tooth decay. Both the act of chewing and the flavor of the artificial sweeteners in the gum stimulate ten times the normal rate of saliva flow. In the future, look for chewing gum that delivers a variety of therapeutic agents that could provide additional benefits to those provided by the ability of gum to mechanically stimulate saliva flow. For instance, some gum might contain active agents that could enhance the gum’s ability to remineralize teeth and reduce decay, or enable gum to help reduce plaque and gingivitis.

Xylitol Reduces Decay-Causing Bacteria

Sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol has the added benefit of inhibiting the growth of Streptococcus mutans, one of the oral bacteria that cause cavities. In the presence of xylitol, the bacteria lose the ability to adhere to the tooth, stunting the cavity-causing process. With xylitol use over a period of time, the types of bacteria in the mouth change and fewer decay-causing bacteria survive on tooth surfaces.

Look for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal

The ADA Seal is your assurance that the chewing gum has met the ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness. All gums with the ADA Seal are sugarless and sweetened by non-cavity causing sweeteners such as aspartame, xylitol, sorbitol or mannitol. You can trust that claims made on packaging and labeling for ADA-accepted products are true, because companies must verify all of the information to the ADA.

Does Chewing Gum Replace Brushing and Flossing?

Sugarless chewing gum is an adjunct to brushing and flossing, but not a substitute for either. The ADA recommends brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and cleaning plaque from between your teeth once a day with dental floss. For most people, chewing sugar-free gum (especially gum sweetened with xylitol) can be a good, preventive measure in situations when tooth brushing and flossing aren't practical, but sugar-free or not, chewing gum should never replace good dental hygiene practices.

To Chew or Not to Chew

Although chewing sugar-free gum can be beneficial in most instances, there are some cases in which chewing gum is not recommended. For example, if you are experiencing any type of jaw pain or temporomandibular disorder symptoms (TMD/TMJ), you should refrain from chewing gum. Also, gum can also dislodge fillings and other dental work, especially if it’s from an older, outdated procedure. Talk to your dentist if you have TMD symptoms or dental work in question about what options are available to you.

 

Sources: MouthHealthy.org, Academy of General Dentistry, American Dental Association

 

 

Overcoming Dental Fear and Anxiety

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Tips for Taking Control of your Dental Anxiety

Fear and severe anxiety are the reactions of as many as a third of all Americans when they think about going to the dentist. Many will never go at all, and a lot of others will go to the dentist only when absolutely necessary.

However, good oral health is important to your overall health and quality of life. So if you suffer from dental anxiety of fear, here are some tips and ideas that may help you overcome those obstacles and see one of our dentists at Lehigh Valley Smile Designs.

 

How to Overcome Common Reasons for Dental Anxiety

1. Fear of the Unknown

Schedule a meeting time with your dentist to just talk over the procedures and help you better understand what is going to be done and how long it should take. Having knowledge of the process and what to expect can help calm anxiety.

2. Fear of Dental Equipment

Sometimes, the scariest part of the dental visit is having those strange, sharp, metal tools stuck into your mouth. What can help ease this fear is to ask to hold the tools first, just so they don't seem so foreign.

3. Sensitive Gag Reflex

People with a sensitive gag reflex may loathe the part of the dentist's visit where those tabs are put in the mouth for the dental X-ray. These days, newer dentist offices offer digital X-rays.

4. Fear of Loud Noises

Those dental tools can be really loud, and the noise can stir up fear in some people. So, consider wearing earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to block out the sound.

5. Feeling Uncomfortable Lying Back In a Dentist's Chair

Some people may be uncomfortable with something as simple as lying back in the dentist's chair, due to a bad back or some control issues. A simple remedy may be for the dentist to only put the patient half-back so that it's more comfortable. Or, a dentist could provide positioning pillows for people who feel aches and pains for being in a laid-back position.

6. Unable To Breathe Through the Nose

Are you a mouth-breather, who feels like you're being stifled if you can only breathe through your nose? That could be an issue at a dentist visit, where the dentist must work in the mouth, which can make mouth-breathing hard. 

Nasal strips can help patients to help them breathe through their nose. Or, nitrous oxide can help you relax and breathe better - all depending on the situation.

 

Taking Charge

Tell your dentist you are afraid, even when setting up an appointment and make sure the dentist is prepared to listen. If you can't talk about it you can't get over it.

Chances are, visiting a dentist won't be nearly as painful as you expect. Surveys of patients before and after the most dreaded procedures - such as a root canal or wisdom tooth extraction - have found that they anticipated much more discomfort than they actually experienced.

Here are a few tips that may help you overcome your fear of the dentist:

Go to that first visit with someone you trust, such as a close relative or friend who has no fear of dentists.

Seek distraction while in the dentist's chair. Listen to your own music on headphones.

Try relaxation techniques like controlled breathing -- taking a big breath, holding it, and letting it out very slowly, like you are a leaky tire. This will slow your heartbeat and relax your muscles. Another technique is progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in turn.

Review with your dentist which sedatives are available or appropriate. Options can include local anesthetic, nitrous oxide ("laughing gas"), oral sedatives, and intravenous sedation.

The best dentists use simple methods to enhance that feeling of control:

They gently explain what the patient will soon feel, and for about how long.

They frequently ask the patient for permission to continue.

They give the patient the opportunity to stop the procedure at any time the patient feels uncomfortable.

They make time for breaks as requested.

Give us a call at Lehigh Valley Smile Designs and make an appointment to meet with one of our dentists to discuss your dental fear and anxiety and how our practice can help you reduce or overcome your fear and get your oral health issues effectively resolved.

 

Sources: WebMD, Huffington Post