Bad Habits Your Oral Health Would Like You to Break

Did you know that a lot of little things you do (or don’t do) could be bad habits that are affecting your oral health? These include everything from not brushing or flossing enough, to eating too many sweets, to even using your teeth to open a bag of chips.

The Snowball Effect

Unfortunately, these bad oral habits (even the ones that seem harmless) can lead to bad oral hygiene over time — causing bad breath, tooth discoloration, red, swollen gums, cavities, gum disease and ultimately, tooth loss. It can affect not just your oral health, but also the following:

Chewing and speech. We need our teeth, all of our teeth. Not just for chewing food properly, but also for speaking properly. Just think how hard it would be to make a “TH” without your front teeth to use in the process.

Self-esteem. Swollen gums, bad breath and stained teeth – not to mention no teeth – can indeed put a damper on anyone’s confidence.

Finances. Delaying needed dental treatment by not visiting the dentist regularly can only cause more harm than good, even to your wallet. When treatment is necessary to save the teeth and bring the mouth back to optimum condition, a lot of dental procedures may have to be done and it can get costly.

Overall Health. Research has shown that gum disease is linked with health problems including heart disease, stroke, pneumonia and other systemic diseases. Bad oral health is also shown to increase the risk of pre-term delivery and low-birth-weight infants. Gum disease treatment not only improves your dental health, but can help improve your overall health as well.

Turn Your Bad Habits to Good Ones

Bad oral habits die hard, but they can be killed with better practices. Experts suggest the following tips:

*Floss at least once a day. It helps remove bits of food and dental plaque in places your toothbrush can’t find, helping to keep your gums healthy.

*Brush after every meal, or at least twice a day. If brushing is not an option, chew sugarless gum (make sure it’s sugarless!) for 20 minutes after a meal or snack to help wash away food and acid by increasing saliva production. This helps prevent tooth decay.

*Clean your tongue with every brushing, either with a toothbrush or a tongue scraper. Bacteria that settle on your tongue can cause bad breath, also known as halitosis.

*Replace your toothbrush regularly. Bristles in your toothbrush that are bent and broken don’t do a good job cleaning your teeth anymore and are clear signs to let your old toothbrush go.

*Eat a balanced diet. Snacking on sweets too often without brushing increases the acid in your mouth, giving you a higher risk of developing tooth decay. Munch on vegetables and fruit instead.

Regular Dental Visits. Your dentist is trained to do damage control in your mouth before it’s too late. You should visit the dentist regularly — every six months.

*Avoid using your teeth as tools. It has the same effect as chewing on hard objects like pencils and ice cubes – it can cause chipped or cracked teeth. You don’t live in the Stone Age, so there’s really no excuse to use your teeth to open a bottle of beer – the bottle opener was made for that. Tools are easier to replace than your teeth, which were really meant to last you a lifetime.

Adding these to your list one at a time is a good start to kick those bad oral habits. By doing a little self-check on your daily dental care habits, you can be on your way to making sure your teeth, your mouth’s health, and your overall health are at their best.

Mouthguards: Built to Protect and Preserve

active lifestyle calls for active safety. And while helmets, goggles and knee pads have become standard equipment to protect our bodies, it’s important to remember to protect your teeth as well. Mouthguards offer an easy, reliable method to cushion your teeth during athletic and recreational activity.

Participating in any physical activity involves a risk of contact with the face and mouth. Although many sports teams require some protective gear, the delicate teeth are often overlooked. Considering that even minor direct force can cause teeth to chip, break or come loose, a mouthguard is a crucial piece of equipment for all active or athletic activities.

Mouthguards are especially crucial during contact sports such as football, hockey or boxing, where blows to the body and face are regular occurrences. But even non-contact sports such as gymnastics, and recreational pastimes (such as skating or mountain biking), still pose a risk to the teeth.

When participating in any activity that may result in injury to the mouth, dentists recommend that the teeth be properly shielded with some form of dental mouthguard.

Your Guide to Guards

There are three basic categories of mouthguards. Your dentist can suggest which type is right for you:

1. Stock Mouthguards — These pre-made protectors can usually be bought wherever sporting equipment is sold. Most dentists do not recommend their use because they cannot be adjusted to your mouth and provide only limited protection.

2. Boil-and-Bite Mouthguards — Boil-and-Bite guards are softened with hot water and then molded over your teeth. A somewhat customized fit leads to better protection and greater ease in talking and breathing. These are also available at most sporting goods vendors.

3. Custom Mouthguards — Your dentist can create a custom mouthguard designed specially for your teeth. These offer the best fit, comfort and protection, but may be more costly than store-bought varieties.

Guard Your Whole Mouth

In addition to cushioning your teeth from unnecessary force, using a mouthguard can prevent injury to the tongue, lips, face and jaw. It can also prevent or lessen the effects of headaches and concussions. Patients who wear dental braces should be especially careful to protect their mouths during physical activity. Make sure to discuss your level of activity with your dentist and find out which type of dental mouthguard best fits your needs.

Pacifiers and Baby Bottles: Comforting or Concerning?

When it comes to sucking, babies are naturals — maybe because they practice even before they are born! Children begin sucking on their thumb while in the womb to develop the skills necessary for breastfeeding. And for many kids, this skill has an added bonus: Thumb-sucking can be very soothing. Many infants and toddlers will continue to suck their thumb or use a pacifier even after they start eating solid foods or stop taking a bottle.

Unfortunately, the use of pacifiers, bottles and sippy cups can lead to speech and dental problems as your child gets older. Because children develop at different ages, it’s a good idea to speak with your dentist and pediatrician to make sure that your infant or toddler’s early oral habits don’t cause problems.

Pacifier Blues

In a child’s first few years, pacifier use generally doesn’t cause problems. But constant, long-term pacifier use, especially once permanent teeth come in, can lead to dental complications. Constant sucking can cause top front teeth to slant out, and bottom front teeth to tilt in. It also can lead to jaw misalignment (such as an overbite) and a narrowing of the roof of the mouth.

It is generally advised that children stop or drastically reduce their pacifier use around age 3. If a child is dependent on the pacifier to be calmed and soothed, try giving it to him or her only when absolutely necessary and using positive reinforcement to wean them off the habit.

If possible, buy pacifiers labeled “orthodontically friendly” because they may limit the risk of dental complications. It’s also a good idea to buy pacifiers constructed as one piece. And never attach a pacifier to a string around your child’s neck, this can cause them to choke.

The Big Bad Bottle

Many children use a bottle longer than necessary. Apart from the risks associated with the sucking motion, bottles also carry a heavy risk of promoting tooth decay if they contain anything other than water.

Frequently sucking or sipping on milk or juice from a bottle over an extended period of time will increase your child’s risk of tooth decay. When sugars and carbohydrates come in consistent contact with teeth, they create an environment for decay-causing bacteria to thrive. Tooth decay can lead to painful infection, and in extreme cases, children may need to have a tooth extraction or dental treatment to extensively repair damaged teeth.

If you notice small white spots or lines on your child’s teeth, particularly near the gum line, it’s a good idea to consult your dentist immediately, as this may be an early sign of decay. As a way to cut back on children’s bottle use, your pediatrician or pediatric dentist may recommend using sippy cups. While these are very useful for transitioning your child from bottle to regular cups, they also pose their own threat to teeth and speech development.

For more help breaking baby away from the bottle or pacifier, talk to your dentist.

Bad Habits Your Oral Health Would Like You to Break

Did you know that a lot of little things you do (or don’t do) could be bad habits that are affecting your oral health? These include everything from not brushing or flossing enough, to eating too many sweets, to even using your teeth to open a bag of chips.

The Snowball Effect

Unfortunately, these bad oral habits (even the ones that seem harmless) can lead to bad oral hygiene over time — causing bad breath, tooth discoloration, red, swollen gums, cavities, gum disease and ultimately, tooth loss. It can affect not just your oral health, but also the following:

Chewing and speech. We need our teeth, all of our teeth. Not just for chewing food properly, but also for speaking properly. Just think how hard it would be to make a “TH” without your front teeth to use in the process.

Self-esteem. Swollen gums, bad breath and stained teeth – not to mention no teeth – can indeed put a damper on anyone’s confidence.

Finances. Delaying needed dental treatment by not visiting the dentist regularly can only cause more harm than good, even to your wallet. When treatment is necessary to save the teeth and bring the mouth back to optimum condition, a lot of dental procedures may have to be done and it can get costly.

Overall Health. Research has shown that gum disease is linked with health problems including heart disease, stroke, pneumonia and other systemic diseases. Bad oral health is also shown to increase the risk of pre-term delivery and low-birth-weight infants. Gum disease treatment not only improves your dental health, but can help improve your overall health as well.

Turn Your Bad Habits to Good Ones

Bad oral habits die hard, but they can be killed with better practices. Experts suggest the following tips:

*Floss at least once a day. It helps remove bits of food and dental plaque in places your toothbrush can’t find, helping to keep your gums healthy.

*Brush after every meal, or at least twice a day. If brushing is not an option, chew sugarless gum (make sure it’s sugarless!) for 20 minutes after a meal or snack to help wash away food and acid by increasing saliva production. This helps prevent tooth decay.

*Clean your tongue with every brushing, either with a toothbrush or a tongue scraper. Bacteria that settle on your tongue can cause bad breath, also known as halitosis.

*Replace your toothbrush regularly. Bristles in your toothbrush that are bent and broken don’t do a good job cleaning your teeth anymore and are clear signs to let your old toothbrush go.

*Eat a balanced diet. Snacking on sweets too often without brushing increases the acid in your mouth, giving you a higher risk of developing tooth decay. Munch on vegetables and fruit instead.

Regular Dental Visits. Your dentist is trained to do damage control in your mouth before it’s too late. You should visit the dentist regularly — every six months.

*Avoid using your teeth as tools. It has the same effect as chewing on hard objects like pencils and ice cubes – it can cause chipped or cracked teeth. You don’t live in the Stone Age, so there’s really no excuse to use your teeth to open a bottle of beer – the bottle opener was made for that. Tools are easier to replace than your teeth, which were really meant to last you a lifetime.

Adding these to your list one at a time is a good start to kick those bad oral habits. By doing a little self-check on your daily dental care habits, you can be on your way to making sure your teeth, your mouth’s health, and your overall health are at their best.

Mouthguards: Built to Protect and Preserve

An active lifestyle calls for active safety. And while helmets, goggles and knee pads have become standard equipment to protect our bodies, it’s important to remember to protect your teeth as well. Mouthguards offer an easy, reliable method to cushion your teeth during athletic and recreational activity.

Participating in any physical activity involves a risk of contact with the face and mouth. Although many sports teams require some protective gear, the delicate teeth are often overlooked. Considering that even minor direct force can cause teeth to chip, break or come loose, a mouthguard is a crucial piece of equipment for all active or athletic activities.

Mouthguards are especially crucial during contact sports such as football, hockey or boxing, where blows to the body and face are regular occurrences. But even non-contact sports such as gymnastics, and recreational pastimes (such as skating or mountain biking), still pose a risk to the teeth.

When participating in any activity that may result in injury to the mouth, dentists recommend that the teeth be properly shielded with some form of dental mouthguard.

Your Guide to Guards

There are three basic categories of mouthguards. Your dentist can suggest which type is right for you:

1. Stock Mouthguards — These pre-made protectors can usually be bought wherever sporting equipment is sold. Most dentists do not recommend their use because they cannot be adjusted to your mouth and provide only limited protection.

2. Boil-and-Bite Mouthguards — Boil-and-Bite guards are softened with hot water and then molded over your teeth. A somewhat customized fit leads to better protection and greater ease in talking and breathing. These are also available at most sporting goods vendors.

3. Custom Mouthguards — Your dentist can create a custom mouthguard designed specially for your teeth. These offer the best fit, comfort and protection, but may be more costly than store-bought varieties.

Guard Your Whole Mouth

In addition to cushioning your teeth from unnecessary force, using a mouthguard can prevent injury to the tongue, lips, face and jaw. It can also prevent or lessen the effects of headaches and concussions. Patients who wear dental braces should be especially careful to protect their mouths during physical activity. Make sure to discuss your level of activity with your dentist and find out which type of dental mouthguard best fits your needs.

Pacifiers and Baby Bottles: Comforting or Concerning?

When it comes to sucking, babies are naturals — maybe because they practice even before they are born! Children begin sucking on their thumb while in the womb to develop the skills necessary for breastfeeding. And for many kids, this skill has an added bonus: Thumb-sucking can be very soothing. Many infants and toddlers will continue to suck their thumb or use a pacifier even after they start eating solid foods or stop taking a bottle.

Unfortunately, the use of pacifiers, bottles and sippy cups can lead to speech and dental problems as your child gets older. Because children develop at different ages, it’s a good idea to speak with your dentist and pediatrician to make sure that your infant or toddler’s early oral habits don’t cause problems.

Pacifier Blues

In a child’s first few years, pacifier use generally doesn’t cause problems. But constant, long-term pacifier use, especially once permanent teeth come in, can lead to dental complications. Constant sucking can cause top front teeth to slant out, and bottom front teeth to tilt in. It also can lead to jaw misalignment (such as an overbite) and a narrowing of the roof of the mouth.

It is generally advised that children stop or drastically reduce their pacifier use around age 3. If a child is dependent on the pacifier to be calmed and soothed, try giving it to him or her only when absolutely necessary and using positive reinforcement to wean them off the habit.

If possible, buy pacifiers labeled “orthodontically friendly” because they may limit the risk of dental complications. It’s also a good idea to buy pacifiers constructed as one piece. And never attach a pacifier to a string around your child’s neck, this can cause them to choke.

The Big Bad Bottle

Many children use a bottle longer than necessary. Apart from the risks associated with the sucking motion, bottles also carry a heavy risk of promoting tooth decay if they contain anything other than water.

Frequently sucking or sipping on milk or juice from a bottle over an extended period of time will increase your child’s risk of tooth decay. When sugars and carbohydrates come in consistent contact with teeth, they create an environment for decay-causing bacteria to thrive. Tooth decay can lead to painful infection, and in extreme cases, children may need to have a tooth extraction or dental treatment to extensively repair damaged teeth.

If you notice small white spots or lines on your child’s teeth, particularly near the gum line, it’s a good idea to consult your dentist immediately, as this may be an early sign of decay. As a way to cut back on children’s bottle use, your pediatrician or pediatric dentist may recommend using sippy cups. While these are very useful for transitioning your child from bottle to regular cups, they also pose their own threat to teeth and speech development.

For more help breaking baby away from the bottle or pacifier, talk to your dentist.

Is That Normal? Aging and Dental Health

If you’re like most seniors, you know that some changes to your body are a normal part of the aging process and others aren’t. The same applies to your dental health. That’s right, the health of your teeth matters as you age, too! So it’s easy to understand why you might be wondering what changes are normal and what might signal something more serious.

What’s Typical

The natural process of aging takes its toll on your teeth and mouth, just as it does your body. Here are some common oral health changes seniors can anticipate:

Tooth Wear — Chewing, cleaning and the normal processes of aging mean your teeth wear down over time. The wear is more advanced in seniors who suffer from bruxism.

Darker Tooth Color — Aging dentin (the tooth’s middle layer) holds stains more easily than younger dentin, making your teeth appear slightly darker. Dental plaque, the sticky invisible film that accumulates on your teeth and traps stains, also builds up faster in seniors.

Gum Changes — Aging gums naturally recede over time. As gum tissue moves up and away from teeth, the roots are exposed. This makes your teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay and more sensitive to hot and cold.

Cavities — Cavities around the root of the tooth are more common among seniors. Any tooth filling material you already have is also aging and can weaken or crack. Your tooth may also decay around the edges of the fillings, allowing bacteria to seep into your tooth and create new decay.

What Could Be Cause for Concern

Some changes to your teeth and gums aren’t normal and shouldn’t be overlooked. These symptoms could signal something more serious and are reason to talk to your dentist right away:

Tooth Loss — Dental cavities and gum disease are the leading culprits of tooth loss in seniors, but neither is a normal part of aging. If your teeth and gums are healthy, there’s no reason why your teeth should fall out. With good oral hygiene and regular professional care, your teeth are meant to last a lifetime.

Dry Mouth — Many seniors experience a reduced flow of saliva, sometimes as a side effect of medical conditions, medications or medical treatment. The problem is that saliva is needed to lubricate the mouth, wash foods away and neutralize the acids produced by plaque. Left untreated, dry mouth can lead to tooth decay.

Bleeding Gums — Experiencing bleeding gums when you brush is a sign of periodontal (gum) disease, a leading cause of tooth loss in seniors. But gum disease is not an inevitable result of aging; it’s caused by the build up of plaque. Left untreated, gum disease is linked to other health concerns like arthritis and heart disease. If you think you have gingivitis or gum disease, see your dentist for gum disease treatment.

Mouth Pain — Any lesion found on the tongue or anywhere in the mouth should be examined by a dentist. Such sores can signal gum disease or oral cancer. Seniors are at higher risk for oral cancer, especially smokers, heavy drinkers and those who’ve had a lot of exposure to ultraviolet light.

Regular dental visits can help detect and treat dental problems in the early stages, and are just as important for seniors as for younger people. Simple self-help tips such as brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily are also important in combatting the effects of aging. Talk to your dentist to find out how often you should come in for routine dental care.

A Parent’s Guide to Flossing

Regular tooth brushing and flossing are important for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. The best way to ensure that your child maintains good oral health through adulthood is to establish their oral hygiene routine early.

In addition to tooth-brushing, you can start teaching your child to floss. Flossing is important for removing the dental plaque trapped between teeth and along the gum line that a toothbrush cannot usually reach. Flossing should be performed at least once a day and should take about two minutes.

You can speak to your child’s dentist for specific suggestions about how and when to begin teaching your child to floss, but generally speaking, you’ll want them to start when they are two to three years old. They will require supervision and assistance until they are about eight years old, but establishing regular flossing habits will put them ahead of the curve as they grow up.

Floss comes in a variety of colors and flavors. Let your child pick their favorite. By making flossing something exciting to look forward to, you will increase the chance that your child will maintain the habit.

Effective Flossing in 3 Easy Steps

Step One. To begin flossing, have your child cut off a piece of floss approximately 18 inches long.

Step Two. Have them wrap the ends around their middle or index fingers on both hands.

Step Three. Next, have them gently guide the floss between their teeth, carefully moving the floss around the tooth and under the gum line. Make sure they floss between the gum line and the side of each tooth.

Your dentist may also suggest that you use a pre-threaded flosser or floss holder to make it easier for your child to maneuver the floss around teeth.

For any questions about creating a great flossing habit for your child, or about any other dental concerns, be sure and consult your child’s dentist for more information.

Talking Teeth: 10 Dental Terms You Should Know

 

 

Have you ever heard your dentist use a word or phrase you didn’t really understand? If so, you’re not alone! It’s not uncommon for dentists to use words that might sound completely foreign to you — they use very specific dental terminology to describe what’s going on in your mouth. And although your dentist wants you to know what’s happening with your teeth so you can take better care of them, sometimes things get lost in translation.

 

Don’t be afraid to ask your dentist to explain any dental terms you aren’t familiar with. What’s important is that you understand any dental problems you might be having, your dental treatment options and your self-care strategies. The better informed you are, the easier it will be to take good care of your pearly whites. Here are some of the most popular dental terms you should know:

 

  1. Dentures: A denture is a removable replacement for missing teeth. Complete dentures are used when all the teeth are missing; partial dentures are used when some natural teeth remain. Dentures help you chew, eat and speak just like someone with a set of natural teeth.

 

  1. Implants: Dental implants are a permanent replacement for missing teeth. Implants are surgically placed into the jawbone where they anchor replacement teeth. Dental implants can replace a single tooth, several teeth or all of them. They can also be used to anchor a dental bridge or dentures into place.

 

  1. Invisalign¨: Invisalign is a brand of dental aligner. Dental aligners are clear, removable dental braces that rely on a series of progressive aligners to treat mild to moderate orthodontic problems. Each successive aligner is worn for about two weeks before moving on to the next.

 

  1. Laser Dentistry: A laser produces a very narrow, intense beam of light energy which can remove, vaporize or shape tissue. Dentists use lasers for the removal of tooth decay, gum disease treatment, root canal therapy, and teeth whitening procedures. Laser dentistry may reduce the need for drills and local anesthesia, plus control bleeding gums during dental surgery, and reduce healing times.

 

  1. Oral Surgery: This dental specialty is dedicated to correcting problems or damage to the teeth, mouth and jaw. An oral surgeon removes impacted wisdom teeth and prepares the mouth for dentures and/or dental implants. Problems with chewing, bruxism, TMD and even sleeping can be also fixed with oral surgery.

 

  1. Sedation: Sedation dentistry uses medication to help you relax during dental procedures. There are several types, including: inhaled sedation (known as nitrous oxide or “laughing gas”); oral sedation, which comes in pill form; IV sedation, which is delivered directly into the vein; and general anesthesia, which leaves you in a deep sleep during a dental procedure.

 

  1. Teeth Whitening: Teeth whitening is the process of temporarily lightening the natural tooth color, usually with a bleaching agent. There are over-the-counter whitening toothpastes, gels, strips and trays as well as professional in-office whitening procedures.

 

  1. TMJ: The temporomandibular joints (TMJs) connect your upper and lower jaws, allowing you to move your jaws up and down, side to side and forward and back. The term TMJ also refers to TMJ disorder, which can cause pain, headaches, toothaches, earaches and more.

 

  1. Veneers: Veneers (often called porcelain veneers) are wafer-thin shells that are attached to the front of a tooth to improve its color, shape, size or length. In addition to looking great, veneers are highly stain resistant and may even strengthen your natural teeth.

 

  1. Wisdom Teeth: These are the third set of molars and the final four teeth to make their appearance, usually some time between the ages of 17 and 25. Wisdom teeth can cause problems if there is not enough room for them to align themselves properly. Impacted wisdom teeth can be extremely painful and are usually removed.

 

Any other dental terms you’re not sure about? Just ask your dentist.

Your guide to caring for dentures

Proper care of your dentures may help you avoid unnecessary, and costly, denture repair. The health of your mouth also depends on how well you care for them. Use this guide to help ensure that your full or partial dentures are kept in tip-top shape.

Brush Your Dentures Daily

Good oral hygiene habits are just as important for your dentures as they are for real teeth. When you take your dentures out every night, be sure to brush them gently to remove food particles, dental plaque and stains. Use a soft-bristled denture brush and a denture cleanser that bears the ADA Seal of Acceptance, or mild hand soap.

Don’t Forget Your Gums, Tongue and Palate

Keeping your mouth clean also helps keep your dentures clean. Brush your gums, tongue and palate every evening and in the morning before reinserting your dentures. Brushing stimulates circulation in your mouth and gums, and helps remove plaque buildup.

Soak Your Dentures When Not Wearing Them

Dentures need to be kept moist; otherwise, they’ll dry out or lose their shape. Be sure to soak your dentures in water or a dentist-recommended cleansing solution whenever you take them out. Avoid soaking your dentures in hot water, which may cause them to distort.

Keep Follow-Up Appointments with Your Dentist

It’s common to feel minor discomfort and soreness in your cheeks, lips and tongue when you first start wearing dentures. That’s why it’s critical to keep your follow-up appointment — your dentist can make adjustments to help improve comfort and prevent more serious problems in the future.