25+ Non-Candy (& Tooth-Healthy) Halloween Treats

boy in Halloween costume with red face paint looking for non-candy Halloween treatsWe all know the traditional Halloween trick-or-treat and party scenario: kids with bags heaping full of candy asking when they can eat their sugary treats—treats that don’t keep their mouth healthy (and can be a no-no for kids with traditional braces).  If you’re as concerned about those sugary candy and your recipients’ teeth as we are, consider packing some tooth-healthy FUN Halloween treats for your kids’ classroom party or for your local trick-or-treaters.

  1. Pencils
  2. Melted crayons (in the shape of a pumpkin or ghost)
  3. Cheese sticks
  4. Frozen yogurt tubes (tell them to get it into the fridge at home!)
  5. Glow sticks
  6. Glow-in-the-dark jewelry
  7. Oranges
  8. Stickers
  9. Coloring books
  10. Temporary tattoos
  11. Flossers (our personal favorite)
  12. Scratch crafts
  13. Finger tip lights
  14. Sugarless gum
  15. Water bottles (add spooky faces on the small bottle for extra fun!)
  16. Magnets
  17. Pumpkin seeds
  18. Halloween window clings
  19. Books
  20. Halloween bubbles
  21. Erasers
  22. Playing cards
  23. Noisemakers/whistles
  24. Slime bags
  25. Playdough
  26. Stencils
  27. Yo-yos
  28. Apples (maybe make them dunk for them?)
  29. Celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins (bugs!)

If you’re concerned about your kids’ mouths after Halloweens, schedule a dentist appointment to get their teeth checked and cleaned.  To keep them from getting spooked (they get enough of that at Halloween!), choose a kid-friendly dentist that they’ll appreciate—almost as much as those Halloween treats!

Types of Teeth Cleaning (& why you should know the difference)

woman getting a dentist exam and teeth cleaningWe admit it: cleaning your teeth is not the most exciting subject.  We know it’s not as much fun as talking about the last Packer or Badger football game, but it’s important.  Not important like learning about invertebrates in biology (especially if you’ve never used that info again), but important for the health of your mouth and even your whole body.

It’s also important to know the type of cleaning you need for dental insurance purposes, so you are clear what kind of teeth cleaning is covered, how often those cleanings are needed, and any costs you may have to cover.

Regular preventative dental cleaning

The most common dental cleaning, called prophylaxis, is what most of us think of when we step into the dentist office.  Prophylaxis is usually done on patients clear of symptoms of gingivitis, gum disease, or bone loss.  When it comes to insurance, this is the kind of cleaning typically referred to and is usually covered twice a year (check your plan for details).  Schedule a teeth cleaning twice a year, like your dentist recommends.

Root planing and scaling

If you are showing signs of bone and gum disease, your dentist typically recommends scheduling an appointment for a root planing and scaling.  Root planing and scaling cleans your mouth from the top down to the roots. Root planing and scaling removes plaque, tarter, bacteria and diseased deposits from the mouth.

Periodontal maintenance

Periodontal maintenance is not a single dental appointment, but a series of dental cleanings and therapies.  Because the goal of periodontal maintenance is to stem the progression of periodontal disease, these visits can be recommended and appointments scheduled as often as three months. Over the course of appointments, the cleaning and therapies clean out any bacteria, tarter, or plaque, and stem any gum disease symptoms.  For these patients, periodontal maintenance appointments are vital to preventing tooth loss, sustaining bone structure, ridding your mouth of diseased tissue, and maintaining healthy gums.  If your dentist recommends periodontal maintenance, you should check with your insurance for coverage details and keep on top of scheduling your next appointment.

20+ Healthy (and Tooth-Healthy) Lunch Ideas

Four schoolkids looking at camera while having lunch during breakStanding in front of the fridge every morning, deciding what to eat for lunch—and what to pack in your kids’ school lunches—can be a challenge (a frustrating one!).  That challenge complicates when you add in trying to decide on foods beneficial for you and your kids’ health—and their mouth.  If you want to help make every dentist appointment a pleasant one for your entire family, pack lunches with foods that are not just healthy for your body, but also your mouth.

In general terms, foods that fit these criteria are rich in calcium (makes for stronger teeth!), protein, and fruits and vegetables that make you chew more (generating more saliva and also rich in vitamins and minerals)—all of which are perfect for lunch breaks when you don’t have time to brush.

  1. Yogurt
  2. Carrots
  3. Cheese sticks
  4. Turkey sandwich with whole grain bun
  5. Chicken slices
  6. Chicken sandwich with whole grain bun
  7. Cucumbers
  8. Melon chunks (small enough so they are not a choking hazard)
  9. Celery sticks
  10. Strawberries
  11. Blueberries
  12. Pear slices
  13. Apples
  14. Tuna sandwich with whole grain bun
  15. Hard-boiled egg
  16. Soup
  17. Red peppers
  18. Milk
  19. Cucumbers
  20. Broccoli
  21. Ham sandwich with whole grain bun
  22. Cheese slice (alone or on a sandwich)
  23. Whole grain pasta

Now that we’ve given you a list of what to pack, here’s what not to pack in your lunch to keep your mouth healthy: anything sweetened.  Avoid soda (here’s why), sweetened juices, candy, and anything gummy if you can’t get to a toothbrush and toothpaste right away.  Add biannual dentist appointments and cleanings and regular brushing and flossing to your tooth-healthy lunch regimen and you’ve got all the ingredients for a healthy mouth (for you and your family!).

Common Dental Emergencies: What to Do On a Holiday Weekend

toothache treatmentWhen we think of a holiday weekend like Labor Day, Memorial Day, or the 4th of July, we think of days of fun…on the lake, on a trip, camping, enjoying a “stay-cation.”  What we don’t think (or like to think about) is the possibility of a painful tooth ache, a chipped tooth, a throbbing tooth infection, or a sleepless night with a hurting mouth.

Yet, it does happen: dental emergencies on a holiday weekend from an underlying infection, a cracked or chipped tooth from a fun wrestle gone bad, or an unexpected lost filling.  On a holiday weekend, it’s not always the easiest to see a dentist for your dental emergency (though it is a very good reason to go to a dentist with emergency availability, even for non-patients!). Until you can schedule a dentist appointment, here are some tips to take care of that painful holiday weekend fun interruption.


  • DO NOT apply heat to your mouth as treatment, even if it brings temporary relief, as heat can cause swelling and make your toothache worse.
  • Apply an ice pack on the side of the toothache.
  • Avoid anything (i.e. food, vibration, pressure to that side of your mouth, etc.) that worsens the pain.
  • Use over-the-counter medications to treat your toothache, but be careful to follow directions—and only use medications that won’t counteract anything you take on a regular basis.

Cracked/chipped tooth

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water.
  • Hold a cold compress to your cheek to lessen pain and swelling.
  • If you have any pain, you can take an over-the-counter pain medication if there is pain, but make sure to follow the label directions.
  • Avoid biting down on the tooth until you can get treated by your dentist.

Knocked out tooth

  • Call your dentist for an emergency appointment (or call another doctor to see if they can handle the problem). Time is of the essence if you have any hope of saving the tooth.
  • DO NOT touch the tooth root when picking the tooth up.
  • If you can, carefully clean the tooth, put the tooth back in your mouth and push the tooth down by closing your mouth.
  • If putting the tooth in your mouth isn’t possible, or you’re worried about swallowing the tooth, keep it moist until you see your dentist.

Lost filling

Lost crown

  • Wash and dry the crown or cap.
  • If your dentist says you should try to temporarily cement the crown back in your mouth, use a dental cement or adhesive (such as Fixodent) to try to reattach the crown or cap.
  • Schedule an emergency dentist appointment ASAP.

7 Ways to Get Your Kids (and Yourself) Ready for School

back-to-school photo of girls walking to school with backpacksIt’s so close, you can almost hear it: school bells, the buses going to and from school, the sound of foot steps of students in the hallway.  The start of school is in sight, and so is the challenge of transitioning your kids back into the school routine.  The good news is that you still have time to take the steps needed to make your back-to-school a smooth and easy process for you and your kids (because we all know that if it’s easier for your kids, it’s easier for you!).

Establish a schedule.

Even though your kids may not need to leave the house for school, start to get your kids up at the time they need to get up to go back to school.  If they haven’t already this summer, have them do all the things they need to do on a normal school morning: eat breakfast, get on new clothes, floss and brush their teeth, etc.  Adjust bed times accordingly as well; usually kids need approximately 10 hours of sleep per night.

Go back to school shopping.

Gear up for the new school year.  Buy backpacks, notebooks, and all the other back-to-school gear your kids need for the year.  Try to involve them in the process; though you may not always be able to get them their favorite backpack or huge box of crayons, it helps to get their input into their school year.

Schedule dentist and doctor appointments.

Call for a doctor appointments. Schedule a dentist appointment. Set up eye doctor appointments.  If you can, get in the necessary appointments to make sure you can fill out school forms and make sure your kids are ready physically for the school year.

Organize your home.

Get your mudroom/entryway ready for the influx of back-to-school gear.  Clear out clothes that don’t fit.  Purge last year’s calendars and newsletters so your command center is ready for the new school year electronic and paperwork.

Visit their school and classrooms.

Take your kids with you to see their classrooms for the year.  Help them map out their route for the day.  If they have a locker, teach them how to open the lock and stow their gear.

Make plans for before and after school.

Locate before and after school care for your kids and let them know what you have lined up so they know where to go and what to do.  If your kids are young, make sure all the necessary staff are aware of pick-up and drop-off schedules so your kids are on the right bus or going home with the right person.

Have everything ready the night before.

Try your best to have clothes, back-to-school gear, and everything for the school day (including your car keys) ready the night before.  This makes the morning of your first day of school (and every day after) smooth so you and your kids can get out the door to school.

10 Things to Do Before the End of Summer

Cute  boy in blue water of the swimming pool, enjoying summer before the end of summerWe can hear the crying and sobbing even before we break the news (especially from the kids!): the end of summer is in sight.  Before you think we’re proclaiming that the proverbial sky is falling, check out social media; the graphics about the beginning of winter are already popping up—and so are the reminders that Labor Day weekend (the unofficial end of summer) are coming fast.

While we all can’t stop time, we can give you ideas for your “end of summer bucket list”—-ways you can enjoy our Wisconsin summer before it’s too late to wear your favorite swimsuit.

Take a day trip.

This is the perfect remedy for a busy summer.  Plan a day trip to a popular destination, like an amusement park, water park, or a quiet hike.  It’s the perfect way to get refreshed and enjoy the beautiful summer weather.

See a parade.

Very few summer events bring on the awe and emotions like a summer parade.  Even though the 4th of July is over, there are still local parades to take in at fireman’s picnics, festivals, and other summer events—and to give you memories you can cherish until next summer’s parade season.

Take in a night of fireworks.

You won’t find many fireworks once the snow starts flying; now is the time to enjoy a night under the stars with those entertaining colors and booms.

Enjoy a fire.

S’mores. A quiet night by the campfire.  A bonfire with friends.  Seize the day—or in this case—the summer night relaxing in front of a good fire.

Go swimming.

The pools won’t be open much longer; this is your chance to jump in and head home—without bundling up!

Go to a fair.

Cotton candy, rides, animals, funnel cakes…there are so many smells, tastes, and sounds to take in at a Wisconsin fair.  If you missed your local county fair, there are still fairs around the state to head to for a fun weekend.

Catch a baseball game.

Now that we’ve got that old familiar tune sung in your head (take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd…), it’s time to google your favorite major, minor, or even little league team schedule.  The cracker jacks and peanuts never seem as good as during an old-fashioned summer ball game.

Get all your dentist & doctor appointments in.

If you have kids, summer dentist and doctor appointments are a must to get ready for school (and essential if you need paperwork filled out for school).  If you don’t have kids, summer is the perfect time to schedule a good teeth cleaning that can clear off any plaque, undo any potential problems from your summer grill out sodas, and prevent an emergency trip to urgent care or the dentist during a vacation.

Enjoy summer treats.

This may seem counterintuitive after suggesting you schedule your dentist and doctor appointments, but summer is a ripe time for all of your favorite summer treats (within reason, of course): good grilled brats, ice cream, lemonade, kabobs, fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden…the list of summer delicious treats could go on and on.

Plan an end of summer vacation.

It’s vacation season in Wisconsin.  Time for a road trip.  Plan a long weekend on the lake, around the campfire, at the amusement park, shopping local stores around your cabin or hotel, or enjoying other summer fun vacation spots around the Midwest or country.  There is still time to have some summerCute  boy in blue water of the swimming pool, enjoying summer before the end of summer fun!

Adults: 6 Tips for a Healthier Smile this Summer

girl with healthy smileWe’ve wrote a lot about keeping your kids’ teeth healthy during summer break, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook the health of your own pearly whites.  Use these tips to make sure your teeth make it through the summer without a cavity or dental emergency.

Floss regularly

Some statistics say that close to 80% of Americans never floss.  Don’t be one of them. Flossing prevents tooth decay and cavities , reduces the chance of gum disease, and can give you fresher breath because you are removing particles from between your teeth that can contribute to bad breath. A healthier mouth may also cost less for dental care and give you fresh breath.

Know your options to straighten your teeth

If you have a lifelong alignment issue that demands care, or a recent problem that demands braces, start researching options that can give you relief from your overbite or overcrowded teeth.  There are three common options: traditional, ceramic, lingual, and invisible (we’ve outlined the pros and cons of each braces option here).

If your orthodontist thinks your condition can be corrected with invisible braces, consider Invisalign, one of the most popular brace products on the market today.  The pros of Invisalign are clear: they are completely invisible, can still fix common orthodontic problems,  and require less orthodontist visits (and maintenance). Invisalign also costs the same as traditional braces (at least at Area Dental Clinic!).

On the other hand, Invisalign does only work best for minor orthodontic corrections, is only available for teens and adults, and does requires discipline because you have to wear the trays 20 hours a day.  If you have concerns about any of these areas, contact your dentist to determine what the best braces option is best so you have a whiter, brighter smile at the end of summer.

Limit the soda—especially before bed

As delicious as those sodas are at your next grill out, sodas, even diet sodas, contain sugar which can mingle with bacteria in your mouth to form acid. The acid from this reaction attacks your teeth and can decay outer and interior tooth enamel. Scientific studies have shown a strong connection between sodas and tooth decay.

If you do enjoy a soda, drink water after soda (or instead of soda), and swish it in your mouth to reduce the amount of sugar on your teeth.  Make sure you brush your teeth after drinking a soda, and try not to go to sleep after drinking.

Whiten carefully

There are a lot of whitening products on the market; indeed it feels like you can’t watch TV without being bombarded with advertisements for teeth whitening products.  Though it might be tempting to buy the first product you see—or the cheapest—proceed with caution and don’t buy the first product you see on the shelf.

If you are interested in whitening your teeth, talk to your dentist first.  Your dentist knows your history and can recommend a product that whitens and keeps your teeth healthy and in prime condition.

Learn to cope with your fear of dentists

If you’re afraid of going to the dentist, you’re not alone.  We’ve seen statistics that estimate the amount of Americans with a fear of dentists to be an estimated 30-40 million.  Unfortunately, your dentist phobia can keep you from getting the cleaning and treatment that keep your teeth healthy.

There are a few ways to overcome your fear (and no time like the present to deal with it for the sake of your teeth.)  If your fear stems from cost, schedule your appointment with a dentist that can give you a firm estimate before your appointment.  If you’ve had a bad past appointment, choose your dentist carefully and bring along items to help you relax (i.e. headphones, scented oils, etc.)  We’ve given you other tips for getting over your fear here.

Don’t miss a dentist appointment

Your calendar is full.  The weather is beautiful.  You have a vacation scheduled.  You’re busy running to soccer and baseball and…there are a million reasons to miss your dentist appointment and 32 reasons to make sure you make it to your scheduled dentist appointment.  That’s how many teeth an adult has, and that’s not even counting the studies that have shown that your oral health is linked to your overall health—and overall summer health.

Parents: Tips to Keep Your Kids’ Smile Healthy this Summer

two boys playing in a pool with a big, healthy smileCookouts, camping, hanging out at home.  All these common summer vacation activities can wreak havoc with kids’ brushing and flossing routines—and their overall oral health.  Use these tips to keep your kids’ smiles bright and healthy this summer—and to reduce your emergency runs to the dentist.

Use technology to keep it fun

If your kids love to play on the tablet or computer, use it to make brushing fun!  To make sure they are brushing long enough, use these fun videos or download one of these cool apps to make brushing for two minutes fun.  You can also set alarms with cool ring tones to remind them to brush every morning and evening.

Establish a healthy summer routine

It’s really, REALLY easy to fall out of routine during the summer.  The result is less brushing and flossing during summer vacation, and more chances for cavities and other dental problems to form.  Try to establish a summer routine, and stick to it. Create a checklist of things your kids need to do every morning (and evening) with the basic “must do’s,” such as brushing and flossing teeth, changing clothes, etc.  Feel free to add in any “parental discrepancy” musts, such as doing chores or reading for 20 minutes.  Keep everyone supervising your kids in the loop about their routine and checklist, such as babysitters and nannies, for a consistent summer routine.

Schedule a summer cleaning

It’s easy to be intimidated by your summer calendar; there are so many soccer games, basketball league dates, swimming lessons, vacation weekends, weddings, and…the list could go on and on. It’s BUSY with a capital B. In the midst of all that running, find a day to get you and your kids in for a summer cleaning.  A summer cleaning rids your kids’ mouths of any built-up plaque that can lead to cavities and catches any issues that could become problems before they become problems.

Be a good role model.

Your kids literally look up to you, so make sure you model good oral care.  Brush your teeth twice a day, one of those times with the kids, and floss on a regular basis.  Schedule dentists’ appointments regularly, and talk to your kids about why it’s important to visit the dentist.  For parents who are normally nervous about a visit to the dentist, seize this opportunity to overcome your fear (we’ve given you tips in this blog post) so your kids don’t pick up on your anxiety.

Keep the soda to a minimum

Sodas are everywhere during the summer months: at cookouts, parties, weddings, and most other summer events.  While an occasional soda is okay (especially if followed by a brushing), try to keep your kids’ summer sodas to a minimum.  Sodas, even diet sodas, contain sugar which can mingle with bacteria in your kids’ mouth (and yours) to form acid. The acid from this reaction attacks teeth and can decay outer and interior tooth enamel.

Limit your kids’ soda consumption during the summer by watching to make sure they only grab one soda from the fridge or cooler, and have them follow up with water once they are finished.  If you have any questions about sodas and your kids’ teeth, make sure you follow up with your dentist at their next dentist appointment or with a quick email.

Why You Should Reconsider That Soda at Your Next Grill Out

young men frying brat and talking at cook outBrats, burgers, chips, soda…all the ingredients of one of our favorite summer pastimes in Wisconsin: the backyard cookout.  It’s pretty easy to head to another weekend cookout, 4th of July barbecue, or party with friends and partake of one of America’s favorite beverages.  Here’s why you should think again before you pop the top off that soda can.

Sodas, even diet sodas, contain sugar which can mingle with bacteria in your mouth to form acid. The acid from this reaction attacks your teeth and can decay outer and interior tooth enamel. Scientific studies have shown a strong connection between sodas and tooth decay.

Some people with cavities experience symptoms, such as a toothache or increased sensitivity to cold or hot foods. Often a patient can feel tiny holes in their teeth. Frequently, though, a person has no way of knowing if they have a cavity or even many cavities. If left untreated, damage from the cavities can worsen and cause more dental issues.  The only way to find those cavities is with routine dental exams.

However, if you can’t resist the delicious occasional soda, use these tips to decrease your chance of cavities:

  • Limit your soda consumption.
  • Brush your teeth regularly and floss every day.
  • Schedule regular dentist appointments and cleanings.
  • Use a straw when you drink soda.
  • Drink water after soda (or instead of soda), and swish in your mouth to reduce the amount of sugar on your teeth.
  • Try to avoid soda before sleeping.
  • Avoid sipping a soda for long periods of time.

If you have any questions about cavities, or are worried you have a cavity, schedule a dentist appointment to get a final diagnosis and to find out how to treat your cavity.

6 Ways to Keep Your Kids Healthy this Summer

healthy kid having fun this summerSummer is supposed to be a time of fun, so don’t let unhealthy habits sideline your kids during summer vacation.

Keep them moving

It’s too easy for kids to just sit and relax all summer—on their bed, in front of the TV, playing video games.  Instead, enroll them in swim lessons.  Sign them up for sports leagues.  Take a daily walk together as a family.  Go for a bike in your neighborhood or on a nearby trail.  Take a swim together at the local pool or lake.

Reinforce good brushing habits

Without a set schedule, it’s far too easy for kids to “forget” to brush in the morning or night.  Don’t let a fun summer turn into an emergency dentist appointment or a full night of comforting your child with a painful tooth.  Use these fun tips for teaching your kids excellent brushing habits, and supervise them as closely as possible.  If they need an extra incentive, set up a chart and reward system.

Be safe

Bike helmets.  Seatbelts.  Sunscreen.  As you are working and playing all summer, keep your kids safe by being careful.  Be careful with any fireworks, and supervise your kids closely in the water or around fire pits. (Here’s more summer safety tips from the CDC.)

Keep your snacks healthy

With all the parties and barbecues, it’s really easy to eat unhealthy foods like chips and treats (not to mention unhealthy drinks like soda!).  Stock up on healthy foods like yogurt, all-fruit frozen pops, raw vegetables, and other healthy snacks that can keep your kids (and you) fit and going all summer.  Another bonus of healthy snacks: some healthy meals can boost your kids’ immune system and prevent illness (because who wants to be sick during the summer?).

Have a supply of water bottles on hand.

Keep your kids hydrated as the summer temperatures and humidity spike.  Make sure your kids are taking frequent drinks of water.  Send along a water bottle when they head out to sports practices, swimming pools, and any other active times.  Try to avoid juice, which can cause tooth decay.

Schedule doctor and dentist visits

Find time in your schedule for doctor and dentist visits that keep your kids healthy.  Schedule a regular dental cleaning and check-up with your dentist and an annual doctor exam to keep everyone in your family having fun during summer vacation.