Parents: 10 BIG Questions About Your Children’s Teeth Answered

laughing little boy with nice teethAs parents, we love to see our kids smile—and we do everything to make sure they keep that beautiful smile from the moment they get their first tooth.  As dentists, we care about that too—and we’re here to help keep their smile beautiful, both in the office and at home.  To help you with the latter, we’ve compiled this list of questions you might have when you’re not in our office—and a few questions that you might not want to ask in front of your kids at the dentist’s (like about the tooth fairy!).

How soon should my kids see the dentist?

The American Dental Association recommends kids make an appointment with the dentist by their first birthday. By age two, your kids can start brushing on their own to establish independence (though you should do a quick check and help regularly).

How can I teach my children to brush (well)?

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.

How often do my kids need dental cleanings?

Kids usually need to have their teeth cleaned twice a year, though your dentist may recommend more appointments if there is cause for concern.

How can I help my kids if they are afraid of the dentist?

If you want your children to (hopefully!) enjoy a lifetime of dentist appointments, choose a dentist that is comfortable with kids. A good dentist should be good with your kids, and a good listener that can answer your questions: two keys to helping your kids love (and not fear!) the dentist.  If you have a child that doesn’t like surprises, make sure you talk to your child about the dentist before you go. Practice the dentist appointment at home to make them more comfortable, and read books that can help put them at ease and make their experience positive.

How can I prevent cavities if my kids have deep pits and grooves in their mouth?

Your doctor may recommend dental sealants for your kids as another way to protect their teeth.  Dental sealants are painted on your child’s teeth, forming a barricade against unwanted invaders, such as plaque and food. The sealants don’t take very long to apply, and the benefits are long-term.  Dental sealants can last for many years. Your dentist can check the quality of the dental sealants at regular dentist appointments.

Does soda cause cavities?

While an occasional soda is okay (especially if followed by a brushing), try to keep your kids’ soda intake 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. If your kids do have a soda, have them follow the drink 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.

When should my child get braces?

The answer to this question depends on the severity of your child’s alignment issues.  Talk to your dentist at appointments about any issues they find, and ask them for the name of an orthodontist they recommend.  If you don’t want to have to schedule appointments at two different offices, choose a dentist that is certified to provide orthodontic services (like Dr. Thomas and Dr. Gibson!).

How long are my kids going to need braces?

The amount of time varies from child to child, dependent upon their specific condition.  Some kids need to only wear braces for 6 months, while others may need braces for 24 months.

How much does the tooth fairy give for each tooth?

The average amount given by the tooth fairy is about $4 for each tooth (per surveys and polls done in 2014).  Interestingly, there is a discrepancy in the amount given by mothers and fathers, with dads tending to be more generous.

How do I answer “what does the tooth fairy do with all the teeth?”

There are a few theories we’ve heard about when it comes to this question.  One theory is that the tooth fairy is using the teeth to make a town.  If you want to give it a royal twist, we’ve read that she’s building a royal castle.  Some of the teeth are ground down for different uses, hence the difference in payment from family to family (or tooth to tooth).

8 of Your Most Frequently Asked Questions about Braces Answered

Close-up of man with big smile holding orthodontic braces tray in dental officeWhen we tell patients they may need braces, they have a million questions.  While we can’t list all of the questions here, we can list the most frequently asked questions and answers that you’ll want to know when you hear “you need braces.”

Are braces only for crooked teeth?

No. While braces have always been associated only with crooked teeth, braces are also helpful for correcting any number of issues such as overbites, underbites, crossbites, and crowding of the teeth.

What are my options for braces?

There are typically four options for patients who need braces:

  • Traditional Braces use stainless steel brackets and rubber bands that move your teeth by applying pressure. Today’s braces are thinner than older versions and can correct the issue quickly (faster than invisible braces).  Traditional braces need to be cleaned carefully, and do require some maintenance.  Patients cannot eat some foods while they have braces on.
  • Ceramic Braces work the same way as traditional braces, without the stainless steel. These braces are made to blend in with your teeth and use white and clear bands. Usually these braces are less obvious than traditional braces but require more maintenance by patients before they are not as durable.
  • Lingual Braces are traditional braces that are installed behind the teeth, which makes them virtually unnoticeable. Because of this, lingual braces take longer to put in and can impact a person’s speaking.  Lingual braces can be hard to clean.
  • Invisible Braces (Invisalign) correct orthodontic problems with a series of removable clear trays that need to be worn for 20 hours a day. Patients can eat any food while they have invisible braces.  Invisible braces are only available for teens and adults, and require less orthodontist visits than traditional braces.

Do braces hurt?

Our patients have reported some discomfort while wearing braces, most commonly after tightening appointments.  If you do experience some discomfort, your dentist may recommend an over-the-counter medication to help manage the discomfort.

Does Invisalign cost more than traditional braces?

Not at Area Dental Clinic in Watertown.  The cost for traditional braces and Invisalign are the same.

Where can I get braces?

To find out if you need braces, schedule an appointment with an orthodontist or a dentist certified to provide orthodontic services (both Dr. Thomas and Dr. Gibson are certified).  The dentist or orthodontist examines your teeth, takes x-rays if needed, and discusses the options for braces with you.

How long do I need braces?

Every person is different, and so is the time they need to wear braces to correct their problem.  Some patients need braces for only 6 months, while others may need treatment for 2 years to correct their issue.

Does insurance cover the cost of braces?

It depends on the type of insurance you have.  Some dental insurance does cover braces, others cover a part of the cost, while others do not cover the cost in any way.  The best way to find out is to contact your insurance provider to find out whether and, if so, how much of the cost is covered under your insurance plan.

Where can I find out more about braces?

If you have any questions about dental braces, contact one of our Area Dental Clinic dentists, Dr. Gibson or Dr. Thomas. Both dentists are certified to provide orthodontic services to adults and children, including Invisalign, and can answer any questions you have. Schedule a consultation to get an exam and information so you can find out more about your specific condition and braces.

5 Ways to Keep Your Mouth Healthy in 2017

young girl having fun because her mouth is healthyThere are a lot of options that come to mind for being healthier in the New Year: eating healthy, working out, taking daily walks. What doesn’t usually come to mind is that gateway to your body: your mouth.  However, the health of your mouth is important. Studies have come out linking poor oral health to health problems like heart disease. With your mouth being the gateway to your body, it’s no wonder that bacteria gain entrance to your body through your mouth.

What is surprising is that poor oral health can create a climate ripe for bacteria to enter and cause problems in other parts of your body. And that same cause-and-effect also works in reverse: your dentist can tell if you have conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure simply by looking in your mouth. So how can you keep your mouth as healthy as the rest of your body in the New Year?

Keep a regular brushing schedule.

Cavities occur because of a combination of bacteria, food, saliva, and the resulting acid.  If you want to keep harmful bacteria and food in check this year, make sure you brush several times a year.  Ideally, you should brush after every meal. At the very least, brush twice a day (usually in the morning and night).  If you want to make your tooth brushing more effective, use these tips.

Floss, floss, floss…did we mention floss?

Statistics have shown that most people don’t floss their teeth, and that’s a shame.  Flossing is your next line of defense after brushing—or vica versa.  It doesn’t matter what order you floss and brush; it only matters that you do both.  Flossing catches all the plaque and harmful bacteria that is missed during flossing.

Minimize the soda you drink.

Scientific studies have shown a strong connection between sodas (even diet ones) and tooth decay.  Minimizing your soda intake can prevent tooth decay and cavities and keep your mouth healthier.  If you do enjoy an occasional soda, use a straw. Swish water gently in your mouth after you are done to rid your mouth of sugar that can mingle and cause any number of unhealthy conditions.

Research sealants.

Even with brushing and flossing, sugar can still cause cavities and tooth decay in deep grooves and pits (especially on your back teeth).  If you want another line of defense, ask your dentist if sealants are right for you.  Sealants are another line of defense, covering your teeth and protecting your teeth from harmful bacteria and sugars.

Make a dental cleaning a regular priority.

If you want to keep your mouth healthy, schedule a regular deep cleaning with your dentist—and keep it.  Your dentist can tell you how often a cleaning is right for your mouth, and together you can make a plan for a healthier mouth in the New Year and into the future.

4 Resolutions for a Healthier You in 2017 (& Tips to stick to them)

young healthy woman eating healthy food as part of New Year's resolutionNew Year’s resolutions.  You either love them or hate them, but somehow we always end up setting a new goal every December or January.  If your goal is to be a healthier new you in 2017, we’ve compiled a list of resolutions to consider, and tips so you can follow through and cross this year’s resolution off your list.

I will lose weight.

We’re listing this one first because it’s the most common, but it can also be the most challenging resolution.  The key is to set a manageable ideal weight, and a write out a plan to make it happen.  Divide your plan into chunks of time; you’ll achieve this weight by this date, and a lesser weight a few months later.

To carry out your plan, document the tactics to get you to that goal.  Write down nightly walks or gym time in your planner, include it in phone calendar—whatever you need to do to make it actually happen.  If better nutrition is part of your plan, write down your meal plan and keep writing it down so you have it in writing (it’s easier to follow through if you have a written plan).

As for an exercise plan, choose an activity that you like to do—or at least don’t mind.  Yoga, nightly walks, swimming, training for a 5K…there are a lot of options for a healthier lifestyle. Choose an option you don’t mind so it’s easier to go.  Ask a friend to train with you, go on walks, or take a class together.  It’s easier to stick to your goal when you have someone else to encourage and commit with you.

I will quit smoking.

If you want to quit smoking, you need to look at your New Year’s resolution as a long-term effort.  Renew your commitment to quit tobacco every day. Write down your reasons for quitting smoking or keep a picture of that someone special you’re quitting for, and keep it within easy reach so you can remind yourself when the cravings hit.

Throw out cigarettes, lighters, and any other reminders of your smoking routine.  Don’t forget about “back-up” packs in your car or in your kitchen cabinets.  Identify any times of the day, such as when you’re driving or having your coffee, when you usually smoke.  Try to replace that part of your routine with another more positive activity, like taking a walk or working out.

Don’t feel that you have to quit the same way your friend or family member quit.  Select the way that would work best for you.  Let your family and friends know that you’re quitting; a support system is always helpful as you try to hit your goal.

I will make my health a priority.

When life gets busy, keeping appointments with your doctor, dentist, and eye doctor can take a backseat to whatever is more pressing at the time.  But to stay healthy, you need to meet with the health care professionals in your life to make sure you stay healthy.

It only takes a few minutes to schedule your appointments online. No matter how crazy your schedule gets, resist the urge to cancel them.  If you are afraid of the appointment, like a fear of the dentist, use these tips to overcome that fear.    

I will eat healthier.

A resolution for a healthier diet in the new year starts with an evaluation of your present lifestyle.  Where can you make improvements?  Can you cut out—or cut down on—your soda intake? (It’s bad for your teeth anyways.)  Can you replace your mid-day sweets with a healthier alternative?

If you want to stick to a diet plan, try to find a tried-and-true approach than the latest fad.  If possible, try to take on the healthier diet with someone else so you are both committed to the change.  You’re more likely to stick to your new year’s resolution if you have someone else to help you commit.      

10 Tips that Keep You from Getting Sick

woman blowing nose because they are sickIt’s that time of year again when EVERYONE seems to be getting sick. Every day you find another social media post from a friend who has succumbed to another cold, flu, sinus infection, or some other disgusting germ you don’t want.  While no one can keep from getting sick EVER, the good news is there are steps you can take so you’re not the next sniffling victim.

Wash your hands.

We’ve all heard the mantra: wash your hands with warm water and soap.  When it comes to everyday life, apply that mantra to almost everything you do—and to your family members as well.  Make sure your kids wash their hands (sing the ABC’s to make sure they wash them long enough).  No matter what you’re doing, take a few minutes often to duck into a bathroom to wash with soap and water.

Get your shots.

Vaccinations can be one of the most effective ways to ward off common illnesses (like the flu, yuck).  No matter how busy you are, schedule a doctor’s appointment to make sure your shots are up to date or head to a flu shot clinic for a convenient way to keep those germs away.

Use hand sanitizers.

Realistically, you’re not always going to be able to duck into a bathroom.  Keep hand sanitizers on hand for when you’re on the go and use it as often as needed.  Just like hand washing, involve your kids in this simple step so you can all stay healthy.

Stay healthy.

A healthy body is less prone to sickness.  This winter, take care of yourself.  Get enough sleep.  Exercise.  Eat healthy foods.  Schedule a dentist appointment (here’s how a healthy mouth impacts your overall health).  Head to the gym.  Do everything you can to make sure your body is healthy so you’re less likely to get sick.

Keep your hands to yourself.

We’ve all heard this from our teachers before, and for very good reason. Humans are very social, and sometimes this can backfire when we share our germs through hand contact.  In the same way, be careful about touching common surfaces such as water bubblers (and water coolers), door handles, grocery carts, and hand rails.  If you do, use hand sanitizer or take a few minutes to wash your hands.  Believe us, you’d be surprised how many germs are spread through contact.

Try to avoid the “sickies.”

If you can, stay home when you’re sick—or when you’re invited over to a friend who you know is sick.  As much as you want to comfort a sick friend or keep them company, opt instead to call them or delay your visit until they’re feeling better.  You’ll both be healthier if you do.

Try not to touch your face.

It’s amazing how much we touch our face and don’t realize it.  It’s gross how often we touch our face and send germs into our body.  If you’re enjoying some tasty treats from the company candy jar, at a party, or in a million other social situations, avoid touching your face as much as possible.

Don’t share.

We know what your preschool and kindergarten teacher told you.  When it’s cold and flu season, ignore their advice and keep your food and drinks to yourself.  Don’t share drinks, and resist the urge to pass around anything that everyone can bite off of.

Teach your kids.

The family that gets sick together, stays together.  After all, no one else wants to get sick.  As much as you enjoy your family’s company, no one wants to be home with a sick kid.  Teach your kids healthy habits.  Make sure they wash their hands, don’t share food and drinks with their friends, and use hand sanitizer regularly.

Don’t bite your nails.

Biting your nails may help you when you’re nervous, but they are a key way to get all the germs that are on your hands and under your nails.  If biting your nails is a nervous habit, find another stress reliever that’ll keep your nails looking beautiful and you from getting sick.

7 Tips that’ll Keep You Smiling through the Holidays

chocolate gingerbread holiday cookies that don't keep teeth healthyWho wants to worry about healthy teeth when you’re surrounded by all those delicious holiday treats?  Or enjoying the good company of friends and family at holiday parties?  But when you want your next dentist appointment to go smoothly (without any unpleasant surprises), you have to think about the health of your teeth all the time—-even during the most wonderful time of the year.

Avoid hard candies.

As tempting as candy canes, taffies and caramels are during the holiday season, shy away from the table packed with hard candies—or floss and brush immediately after done.  Sugar can create the perfect storm of bacteria in your mouth, breaking down enamel and causing cavities.

Stick to your routine.

The holiday season is supposed to be a jolly time.  It’s not a good time to miss your morning or night flossing and brushing.  If you know you have a holiday luncheon or mid-day holiday party, bring your toothbrush or mouth wash along to work.

Avoid snacking, snacking, snacking, and more snacking.

It always seems like the holiday treats never go away…at the office, at home, or when you’re out and about.  Unless you’re going to continuously brush your teeth, try to eat only at meals.  Avoid grazing throughout the day so you can minimize your risk for cavities and other teeth issues.

Stay away from soda (or brush right after).

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 partake of an occasional soda, drink the soda.  Don’t sip and make sure you brush as soon as you can after you’re done.

Don’t use your teeth as a nut cracker.

Be careful about using your teeth to open nuts at parties or at home—and anything else you may be tempted to open this holiday (i.e. packages, tape, ribbon, etc.)  It’s not healthy for your teeth, and can cause damage (i.e. chipped or cracked tooth) that’ll make this holiday an unpleasant experience you won’t forget.

Floss, floss, floss.

Flossing gets all the plaque and harmful bacteria that you didn’t get while brushing, making it one of the most important daily habits that prevent cavities and tooth decay. It doesn’t matter if you floss before or after brushing, as long as you do it. So grab that dental floss after every holiday party and every time you brush; you’ll be glad you did when you get a clean bill of health at your next dentist’s appointment.

Schedule an appointment with your dentist.

This seems pretty obvious, but regular dental cleanings give your mouth a level of clean that you just can’t get with a brush—no matter how good of a brusher you are.  Try to find time in your holiday schedule or after the holidays to schedule your next teeth cleaning so you can make sure the holidays are truly wonderful for you and your teeth.

5 Common Teeth Whitening Mistakes to Avoid

girl with healthy white smileIt’s easy to look for teeth whitening solutions on the internet or in TV ads, but proceed with caution when shopping for safe ways to get a whiter smile.  Your teeth are an integral part of your health, and some whitening solutions—and common mistakes made when buying teeth whitening products—can damage your pearly whites and land you back in your dentist’s chair.

Not talking to your dentist

Your dentist is more than just a twice-a-year visit.  He or she is (or should be) an expert on oral health, someone who can recommend steps you should take to keep your teeth and mouth healthy.  If you’re thinking about whitening your teeth, consult your dentist before you purchase any teeth whitening products to make sure that your next visit to the dentist is smooth (and bad news free!).  Otherwise: you’re whitening at risk: using teeth whitening products when you have cavities or other damage can accelerate and cause more damage.

Using one-size-fits-all trays

Everyone’s mouth is different (trust us on this, we’re dentists!).  As tempting as it is to buy those one-size-fits-all trays, there can be repercussions from using ill-fitting trays.  Trays that don’t fit properly can leak or apply chemicals to your mouth in areas that you don’t intend, causing injuries to your teeth and gums.

Buying whatever teeth whitening product you find

Mouth rinses. Strips.  Special toothpaste.  There are a number of products on the market, and not all have been tested and approved.  Ask your dentist for a list of teeth whitening products they recommend or look for an ADA seal.  If you wander outside the tooth whitening aisle at your local drug store or at the grocery store, make sure you are using products clearly designated for the mouth.

Not following the directions

Teeth whitening is one of those situations where you need to follow the directions to the ‘T,’ as the old adage says.  Using teeth whitening products too much or outside of the label can damage your teeth and gums or lead to injuries, such as chemical burns or loss of enamel.

Using home remedies

Using common household products to whiten your teeth sounds like a great idea in theory.  However, certain household products, especially acidic ones, can wear down the enamel in your mouth.  No matter how good it sounds, be careful about any home remedies you see on the internet or hear from your friends.  That home teeth whitening mixture could be worse for your oral health than the color of your teeth.

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!).