Getting kids ready to return to school always seems to be a challenge. Wrapping up summer activities, getting school supplies and clothes purchased, and rearranging everyone’s schedules is often difficult, to say the least!
And then, if you have a child entering kindergarten or 9th grade, there’s also the dental screening exam that may have escaped your parental radar. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I find it fairly easy to keep track of things that I do every week or every month…or even every year. But when I only need to do it twice in a ten-year span, I have a tough time remembering when I’m supposed to do it.
Since I’m a dentist, I could propose a solution to have the screening required every year so it would be easier to keep track of, but I doubt if many parents, let alone the school systems across the state, would be pleased with that solution!
Instead, let me simply stress the importance of these two examinations. For many of you parents, who bring your children to us twice a year, getting these forms filled out is easy. It may be as simple as calling us and asking us to fill out the form and send it to you. You may find when you are in that we’ll remind you that the forms need to be filled out, and since we stock the forms, we’ll simply do it for your children as part of their regularly scheduled visit when we’re already monitoring their oral health, the growth, and development of their jaws and eruption of their teeth, etc.
But for some other parents, for many, many reasons, you haven’t gotten your children in to see us as regularly as would be helpful for them and as you might have wished. At least for you, the state requirement for having these forms filled out, helps ensure that your children are getting some care, and at fairly important intervals.
While every child grows at a different rate, these two ages allow me and our hygienists an opportunity to monitor the eruption of the child’s teeth and their oral health and development. Beyond that, it’s a chance to determine if there is any decay or oral disease present that we can deal with before it becomes painful for the child.
Cavities are the most common childhood infection and certainly one of, if not the most frequent, causes of time lost from school due to pain or serious infection causing swelling, etc. By detecting cavities before they are causing active problems, I can treat them early and fairly easily for your children. That’s FAR better than having to treat a problem when the area is already infected and painful – especially for your child! The other thing these exams allow for is to evaluate your children for sealants – coatings on their molars that help prevent cavities from happening. That’s a GREAT deal for the kids!
So call us TODAY and get your child scheduled for an examination and any needed treatment. You’ll be glad you did when the rest of the school year goes along without any emergency dental visits, and it is certainly a good plan for preventing dental problems!
“Why do I need to go to the dentist every _____?” You can fill in the blank – I hear that blank space filled with words ranging from “6 months”, “year” to leaving it totally blank so the response is actually, “Why do I ever need to go to the dentist?” I think that’s a legitimate question, and I also believe that the answer varies tremendously based on the individual’s health and needs.
First, let me be clear: No one “needs” to go to the dentist. There I said it, and some of my colleagues may come after me for that statement. BUT (and you notice that word is in bold, capital letters), almost all people benefit from going, especially if they want to keep their mouths and the rest of their bodies in good health. While there are probably a few folks who could keep their teeth and stay dentally healthy without ever going to a dentist, the number of those people is very low.
What we really should be discussing are each individual’s desires. Good health, clean and shiny teeth, fresh breath, keeping natural teeth for a lifetime, or simply the ability to eat and enjoy a good meal? There are others who simply don’t seem to really care about these things. For them, there is a further issue – systemic health. If good overall health is important to you, so are regular visits to the dentist. Indeed, even if someone has false teeth, regular visits are important to allow for early detection of possible cancers and other systemic diseases.
Regular visits to the dentist are now considered important enough that some medical policies are paying for people with diabetes to see their dentist four times per year. Those companies do this because there is solid evidence that consistent dental care reduces the incidence of major medical problems! That’s truly a case of dental care potentially saving someone’s life.
So if you are one who wants to keep your mouth and the rest of you healthy and have a bright shiny smile, how often should you visit us? As a first premise, that’s a question to discuss with us -- ask us how often you would benefit from periodic visits. Then ask us for the reasoning behind that answer. Many of us were raised with the idea of seeing our dentist twice a year and brushing our teeth twice a day. I don’t know that either of those ideas is well supported by clinical evidence. There are simply too many other factors.
Consider these factors:
- Do you currently have a high decay rate? (For example, do you need fillings more than once per year?)
- Do you have a mouth full of old fillings and / or crowns? (This is a good clue to your historic susceptibility to dental disease.)
- Have you had or do you currently have some form of gum disease? If so, how severe is it, is there bone damage, and how easily do your gums bleed?
- What is your systemic health status?
- Do you have diabetes or other inflammatory-related diseases such as heart disease?
- If you have any of these diseases, how well controlled are they?
- Has your medical doctor recommended you see a dentist? (This might happen because you are going to have surgery soon or because your physician suspects you have active dental problems.)
- Are you pregnant? (If so, you being in good dental health is really important for the health of your baby.)
After all those factors are carefully weighed, what is the final answer? Most people do come for a visit two times a year. That may be as much because they have a dental benefit plan that pays for two visits a year as for any other reason. We have some clients in our practice that we plan to see about once a year, and sometimes that gets stretched out to once every eighteen months. I’m comfortable with that interval when they have a very low incidence of dental problems, are in good systemic health, and take consistently excellent care of their mouths. On the other end of that spectrum are the people who don’t take very good care of their mouths, whether they are systemically healthy or not. We want to see those people every three or four months, and sometimes as frequently as every two months. That allows us to help them maintain a better dental condition than they have been able to do for themselves.
We also have a few of our clients that are healthy, both dentally and systemically, and simply want to come in every two to three months because they want stains cleaned off their teeth. Some people really love how their mouth feels after having their teeth cleaned.
So talk with us and let us work it out together! Together, we can determine what is right for you!
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” or so the song goes. In general I agree with that song. There is something about Christmas that is truly magical – for me it is about “peace on earth,” and other loving feelings. Friends and family simply being together is what makes it so special for me.
Then there’s the other side of Christmas, what many refer to as the “commercialization” of Christmas. For me that translates into “what do I get for_____”, etc. That is the part I don’t particularly care for. Even when I know how much joy I’ve brought to someone I love with a special gift that they really appreciated.
So what if we all tried something new this year for Christmas giving: Give people you care about your SMILE! A true gift from the heart that can mean so much. (You can tell the difference, when it’s really from the heart, can’t you?) You don’t need to go to the mall and break the bank either, so it’s easy. The great thing about your smile is that it’s instantly available over and over again, and believe it or not, the more you use it, the more you’ll want to use it. It is renewable and can make you feel better too!
There’s actually been a fair amount of research done on smiling. Smiling is one of the few things I’ve seen researched that actually shows no negative side effects. The research has shown the following:
- When someone smiles at you it’s actually hard to not smile back – smiles are contagious!
- When you smile, even if you don’t really mean it, it feels good to you, and it reduces your stress levels. Then, at least in my experience, the next time you smile it’s even more genuine and feels even better for you and the recipient.
- Smiling makes your immune system stronger, and that in turn helps you prevent illness.
- Smiling makes you appear more attractive and approachable. When you smile at others, you seem more welcoming, so people want to be with you.
- Smiling also makes you seem more trustworthy compared to people who aren’t smiling.
With a payoff like that, why not smile all the time? The response that I often get is, “I don’t like my smile”. As a dentist, I’m happy to tell people we can almost always help. Sometimes the treatment is really simple yet achieves amazing results, and sometimes it’s really complicated and may achieve a noticeable, but not ideal improvement. Dentistry now has so many tools to work with that improving smiles is usually highly predictable, and often far easier than many people expect. The options are many depending on how your smile might benefit: whitening, reshaping teeth, use of tooth-colored bonding, veneers to change tooth color and shape, implants to replace missing teeth, and orthodontics,
The best news of all – everyone likes to see a smile! As a dentist I get to see all sorts of “problems” that affect people’s smiles. Yet I can’t remember seeing anyone smile at me that I didn’t appreciate or, in special cases, get the message of joy coming from their heart. So if you don’t like your smile, make a resolution to improve it in the coming year. But please, in this time of celebration, don’t let that stop you from smiling. The grinch might try to steal Christmas, but don’t let anyone steal your smile!
Since Halloween is here and all of the stores are trying to encourage us to buy big bags of candy to hand out to all the trick or treaters, perhaps it is appropriate to discuss the idea of “good candy” and “bad candy”. To put it more accurately, if not grammatically, “better candy” and “worse candy” because believe me, there is NO “good candy” even if some of it tastes that way.... There’s a reason that most witches and Jack O Lanterns are missing teeth...
Why am I such a killjoy on the subject of candy? It’s estimated that the average person in the United States consumes about 130 pounds of sugar every year. That adds up to over 1/3 pound per day per person. If you put that into a pile of sugar cubes, it’s a pretty big pile! And we all know that there is LOTS of sugar in candy. So what? you might say. Well, first, ignore dental health. Our country is facing an epidemic of obesity – and lots of that excess fat is coming from sugar. The number of kids who are overweight is skyrocketing, and unfortunately, habits that start when we’re kids often carry over into our adult lives. Consider also the rapid increase in people who have diabetes and related health issues – there is strong evidence linking that increase to the increased consumption of sugar.
But since I’m a dentist, I’m not going to ignore dental health entirely. Every time we consume sugar, acid is produced in our mouths, and it only takes about 20 seconds. Then it remains in our mouths for about 30 MINUTES. Since most candy is consumed between meals, and often at a fairly leisurely pace, that can account for a lot of HOURS of acid exposure in our mouths. That’s what produces cavities. While that may be good for my business, it most definitely isn’t good for anyone’s health!
Having made what I believe is a convincing case AGAINST sugar and candy, I’m also a realist. I admit it, I eat sugar too, and I enjoy it. I simply work at picking how much and when I choose to eat it. There are definitely better and worse times and ways to consume it.
The best time to consume sugar (and believe me it is contained in an amazing number of foods and beverages – try reading the labels on everything you buy for a week) is with meals. If that was the only time you had any sugar in your diet, you’d probably be consuming far less than the average person, AND you’d be doing far less damage to your body and your teeth! So the “when” is fairly easy. If you do slip in a “treat” between meals, consume it quickly – that will reduce the amount of time your mouth is exposed to it, so you’ll be reducing the amount of damage that is done to your teeth.
Now, I hope the title of this article kept you reading to this point. So I’ll answer the question that you’ve probably been hoping for – what’s “good” candy? First, eat candy that moves through your mouth quickly. That means avoiding sticky items (sorry, but that means avoiding caramel apples!), or candy that is designed for you to suck on over a prolonged period. Items that are tart stimulate saliva flow, and that helps to reduce the damage that the sugar causes. Chocolate, some research has shown, is a good alternative. There are some positive aspects to chocolate that help make up for the negatives. That is especially true for dark chocolate – there’s actually some solid research that says dark chocolate is actually good for you (depending upon your other health concerns, of course). When all else fails, choose moderation – I find that’s almost always a good decision....
Oh, and please don’t forget to brush and clean between your teeth when you’re done eating – no matter what it is! It’s a great habit to get into!
I was watching TV over the weekend and saw several separate ads promoting fresh breath, nice smiles, and a dating site. The key concept of the dating site was all about getting a second date. It stressed in a variety of ways that the first date was not a big deal, but having a connection good enough to warrant a second date was huge!
It made me wonder how many people go out for a first date, but don't make it to a second. And how many of those ‘failed’ dates are related to bad breath?
Studies show that half of adults have had bad breath at some time in their lives, and I bet the number is actually far larger than that. There are lots of reasons why people get bad breath. Many are harmless, although annoying, and others are an important warning of much bigger problems.
- Garlic, onions, and coffee are perhaps the things we most commonly associate with bad breath. Of course there are many other problem foods and beverages, but these probably deserve their bad reputation. Yes, what we eat does affect our breath. So if you’re trying to make a second date a reality, you might want to pay attention to what you eat on your first date!
- Tobacco use is another frequent cause of problems. I suspect we all know smoking isn’t good for us, but some people don’t realize it’s also a cause of stained teeth and bad breath. Further, it reduces people’s sense of taste and smell, so they aren’t even aware of the impact it has on how their breath smells!
- Most bad breath happens thanks to hundreds of types of bacteria that naturally live in our mouths. When we eat, they do too, and often leave bad smelling waste behind. And of course, what we eat sometimes helps determine how those waste products smell….
- A related issue is if your mouth often feels dry, you might not be creating enough saliva. Saliva is essential to help “rinse out” your mouth. Without enough “spit”, your mouth isn’t lubricated, setting the stage for waste products to collect and smell. Dry mouth can be caused by medications, by breathing through your mouth, and sometimes also with age, as the quality and quantity of saliva changes. What can make it worse is that people who struggle with a dry mouth or bad breath often resort to mouth washes that contain lots of alcohol. While that may temporarily mask the dry feeling or the odor, the alcohol dries out your mouth and makes the problem worse!
Bad breath that always seems to be present and is often accompanied by a bad taste may be a sign of gum disease. So if you notice either of these problems a lot, it’s extremely important to seek dental care right away – call us! Other mouth infections can also cause bad breath, and we can help you determine if the problem is being caused by a problem in your mouth.
Your bad breath could also be the result of a systemic problem, such as a sinus condition, gastric reflux, diabetes, liver or kidney disease. So if you have a persistent problem and have ruled out dental issues, it is very important for your over-all health for you to see your medical doctor to investigate the issue further.
If you’ve dealt with all of the previously mentioned issues and bad breath is still an occasional problem, what else can you do to prevent it? First, of course, is to make sure you are doing an effective and thorough job of cleaning your mouth. Note I didn’t say “brush and floss”. Thorough brushing, ideally more than once a day, cleaning between your teeth, and scrubbing your tongue are all important facets to effectively cleaning your mouth. Ask us to coach you based on your individual circumstances on this very important issue.
If you wear removable dentures, be sure to thoroughly clean them as well, and clean the tissue underneath where they rest in your mouth. Leaving them out overnight also often helps.
If you have a dry mouth and we haven’t already discussed it with you, talk with us about steps you can take to get more saliva flowing. Eating healthy foods that require lots of chewing often helps and chewing sugar-free gum may also help. There are also over-the-counter products that are designed to help this problem. We can recommend the appropriate choices for your situation. If you are taking medications, talk with your doctor about your dry mouth. It may be possible to change your medications and find one equally effective that doesn’t reduce your saliva flow.
Eliminating smoking is a given. I know for most people that isn’t easy, but it really will change the health of your mouth as well as the rest of your body!
And if you’ve done everything else I’ve mentioned, and you really want to get a second date, using an alcohol-free mouthwash on an occasional basis may help. It may dislodge some of the bacteria and debris in your mouth and improve the situation for a short term “fix”.
And who knows, maybe the second date will result in a lifetime of happiness! And perhaps effective care will result in a lifetime of good oral health! There’s a win – win!
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