How to Prepare Your Child for the Dentist

Visiting the dentist can be stressful for young children, especially if they had a difficult past experience. Children are very sensitive to their environment. It’s always best to take your child to a dentist who enjoys working with children right from the start. A dentist who has a way with kids can immediately put your child at ease in the office.

In addition to choosing a compassionate dentist, there are other things you can do as a parent to ensure that your child has a successful visit.

  • Prepare your child ahead of time. Children are routine oriented. They like to know what is coming next. Discuss the upcoming appointment with your child so that expectations are clear. You child will probably have questions and it is important to be sensitive to any concerns.
  • Take a trial run. See if you can set up an appointment for your child to meet the dentist ahead of time. Some dental offices will give you a tour, showing your child where cleanings are done and x-rays are taken. Sometimes seeing other children having a good visit sets up positive expectations.
  • Teach relaxation at home. If you have a particularly anxious child you may want to practice some relaxation exercises at home prior to the appointment.  Teach your child how to take deep breaths from the belly and exhale through the mouth. You can practice by blowing bubbles. Another great relaxation exercise is to have your child tense and relax each body part.
  • Consider laughing gas. Some dentists use nitrous oxide to calm an anxious child before dental work. The dental assistant simply places a mask over your child’s nose so he can breathe in the gas and relax. If you are going to give it a try, talk about what to expect physically and emotionally prior to the appointment.

Some children are more anxious than others in general. If you are still worried about your child, speak to your dentist about your concerns. The more information your dentist has, the easier it will be to make your child comfortable. Partner with your dentist to make the experience as pleasant as possible.

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How Teens Can Develop a Healthy Smile

It’s important for teens to take good care of their teeth, just as it is for people of all ages. Good oral health includes brushing twice daily, flossing each day, and seeing the dentist for regular checkups. In addition, there are specific issues that affect teens that you also need to be aware of.


Most people think braces make your teeth straighter so that they look attractive. However, braces are necessary for other reasons too. Untreated orthodontic problems can make it difficult to eat. A bad bite can also increase your risk of tooth decay and gum disease because a bad bite can make it hard to clean your teeth.

The good news is that you are not limited to the type of braces your parents had to wear when they were teens. Now there are many styles available, including tooth-colored plastic braces, metal braces in a variety of colors, and removable clear retainers. Ask your dentist to discuss your options with you at your next visit.


Oral piercings have become popular with teens, yet they can be dangerous to your dental health. You can easily develop an infection as there are millions of bacteria in your mouth. You can even end up with a serious systemic infection such as hepatitis.

Piercings in your mouth can also cause your tongue to swell. A swollen tongue can close off your airway, and increase your risk of choking. In addition, biting hard on a piercing can damage your teeth. Talk with your dentist if you are considering oral piercings.


You already know that smoking cigarettes is dangerous for your lungs.  However, tobacco use negatively impacts your oral health too. It’s not just cigarettes that are bad for you, either. Any form of tobacco is harmful and can cause oral cancer. Tobacco use can also lead to gum disease, which means you can end up losing your teeth permanently. Additionally, tobacco use affects the way you:

  • Look. Tobacco stains your teeth and tongue and can make it difficult to correct cosmetic dental issues.
  • Smell. Tobacco gives you bad breath. It also affects the way things smell to you.
  • Taste. When you use tobacco, it dulls your senses and affects the way things taste.

Eating Disorders

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, more than 10 million Americans suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. Although eating disorders stem from physical, emotional, and social issues, they can also seriously impact your dental health.

  • Bleeding gums. Poor nutrition causes your gums to bleed.
  • Chronic dry mouth.  A poor diet can lead to decreases saliva which causes dry mouth.
  • Chipped and broken teeth. Frequent vomiting damages the enamel on your teeth, causing them to chip and break.

People with eating disorders need counseling and should see their health care providers right away for support and assistance.

Wisdom Teeth

Most of your permanent teeth arrive by the time you turn 13. However, your wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last teeth to come in and usually appear from ages 17-21. When they don’t have enough room to grow in, or start growing in the wrong position, your dentist may need to remove them. Sometimes wisdom teeth are removed to make room for braces. Your dentist will monitor the progress of your wisdom teeth when you come in for your routine exams, as everyone’s teeth grow in differently.

Of course the best way to take care of your teeth is by brushing and flossing. See your dentist at least once every six months for a thorough cleaning and routine exam. Then you will have a beautiful smile for years to come.

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Halloween Candy Tips

Children love Halloween. It’s an opportunity to dress up like their favorite characters and go door to door begging for candy. Unfortunately children eat more candy at Halloween time than any other. Although completely eliminating candy at Halloween would be an impossible feat, there are some things you can do to ensure your children don’t cause damage to their teeth.

Be Picky. Go through your children’s candy after they return from trick-or-treating. Remove sticky candies which can pull out fillings or cling to teeth causing tooth decay. Also take out hard candy which attacks tooth enamel as it sits on teeth over time, leading to cavities. Dole out the remaining candy a little bit at a time.

Balance It Out. Having candy at Halloween won’t be a big deal if your children eat healthy the rest of the year. Provide them with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They should also drink plenty of fluoridated water and skip sugary sports drinks and soda.  In fact, let them eat their Halloween candy after a meal, when saliva production is increased. That will counteract the damage caused by sugar.

Establish a Routine. Children need to know the importance of brushing at least twice a day. Flossing is also essential as it removes plaque from between teeth and under the gum line. As their role model it is up to you so show them how it is done- literally. Walk them through the steps so they know how to brush and floss correctly. Then make it a point to brush and floss your teeth when they are around.

Schedule an exam and cleaning for each child at least once every six months. Establishing good oral health early is a gift you can give them no matter what the holiday.

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Why Flossing is so Important

Flossing is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. Although many people believe they are supposed to floss to remove food debris from their teeth, removing plaque is even more important.

Plaque is the bacteria that form on your teeth between brushing. When plaque sits on your teeth it generates acid which leads to tooth decay and gingivitis. Eventually you can end up with periodontal disease and tooth loss. The only way to effectively remove plaque between your teeth is by flossing or using another inter-dental cleaner.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends flossing at least once a day. It is easy to put it off until the end of the day when you may be too tired to follow through. Try flossing first thing in the morning or after lunch.

Learning the Proper Flossing Technique

Use a piece of floss 15 and 18 inches long. Loop most of the string around the middle finger of one hand and the rest around your other middle finger. Wrap it around each tooth, one at a time, in the shape of a “C.” Clean up and down the tooth’s surface with the floss between your thumbs and forefingers.

If you notice that your gums bleed don’t be alarmed. Inflamed gums are caused by plaque build-up. However, if bleeding does not stop after flossing for a few days in a row, it could be a sign of periodontal disease. Let your dentist know if you are concerned.

Don’t skip your back molars where most decay occurs. If it is difficult to reach all of your teeth, try using a floss holder. They help you find the dexterity to clean between your teeth with just one hand. There are soft wooden floss holders as well as two-pronged plastic floss holders. A pre-threaded dental pick works well for many people.

You may feel some slight discomfort when you first begin a flossing routine but don’t give up. You should notice improvement within one or two weeks when you floss daily. If the discomfort continues, see your dentist so that he can rule out any problems.

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Oral Pathology: What is Geographic Tongue?

When you hear the term geographic tongue (GT), you may envision a map instead of a condition affecting your mouth. The irregular patches, red lesions, and white spots on the tongue actually do cause the tongue to resemble a map, which is where the name comes from.

In addition, patches appear on different places on the tongue’s surface, appearing to move from one area to another. The reason why the patches seem to be moving is that the papillae on the tongue become worn away. What is underneath is smooth, dark, and very sensitive. Many people with GT have soreness and burning.

If you have symptoms of GT, it is helpful to avoid certain substances. Spicy or acidic foods can increase your discomfort. Toothpaste with additives or whitening agents can also be uncomfortable. It’s best to avoid tobacco as well.

GT affects 1-3% of the population and more women than men. It can affect people of any age. You may be prescribed one or more of the following to treat your discomfort:

  • Zinc supplements
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Mouth rinses containing anesthetic
  • Corticosteroids

See your dentist for a diagnosis. Often symptoms of GT go away over time. While GT can be a very uncomfortable disorder, your dentist can help you treat your symptoms and find relief.

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Jaw and Facial Pain

It is not uncommon for adults to report chronic jaw and facial pain. If you are having symptoms then it is important to alert your dentist so that he can perform a thorough exam.  X-rays may be taken to help your dentist identify the cause of your discomfort.


There are several symptoms associated with discomfort in the jaw and face. Patients may describe:

  • Difficulty biting
  • Tenderness in the jaw
  • Headaches
  • Ear pressure


There are many conditions associated with jaw and facial discomfort. Two common conditions are an abscessed tooth or a TMJ disorder. Dentists trained in oral and maxillofacial surgery can treat you for both of these situations after making a diagnosis.

Abscessed Tooth

If you have an abscessed tooth then your dentist may prescribe an antibiotic so that the infection does not spread. You may also need a root canal to clean the area, in which case a crown will be placed over the tooth afterwards. There are times when an extraction is necessary to drain the socket. Then a bridge will be placed over the area for cosmetic purposes.

TMJ Disorder

There is a small joint right in front of your ear where your skull and lower jaw connect, called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). You use this joint constantly throughout the day as it makes it possible for you to open and close your mouth. The movable part of the joint is called the condyle. The socket is called the articular fossa. Between the two parts is a disk made up of cartilage which cushions the joint. When the disk becomes displaced it can be very uncomfortable.

If you have a TMJ disorder then you may here popping sounds when you open and close your mouth in addition to discomfort. Disorders can be caused by arthritis, stress resulting in teeth grinding, or an injury to the disk. There are a variety of treatments available, depending on the severity of the problem. TMJ treatments can include muscle relaxants, a mouth protector, stress management counseling, and surgery to repair damaged joints and tissue. Contact our dentist today to learn more about tmj treatment.

There are other conditions responsible for jaw and facial pain, including sinusitis, facial injury, and a nerve condition called trigeminal neuralgia. No matter what is causing your discomfort, sharing your symptoms with your dentist is the quickest way to get relief.

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How Grinding Your Teeth Affects Your Oral Health

Many people grind their teeth when sleeping and some are not even aware they are doing it. The medical term for teeth grinding is bruxism. The behavior can cause you to permanently damage your oral health. Fortunately there are treatments to repair damage already done to your teeth. There are also ways to prevent teeth grinding in the future. That makes it very important to discuss the matter with your dentist right away.

What Causes People to Grind Their Teeth?

People grind their teeth at night for different reasons. One of the most common causes is stress and anxiety. People with an abnormal bite or missing teeth may also grind their teeth as they shift their jaw to find a comfortable position. Unfortunately people often do not realize they grind their teeth until alerted by someone else. The noise made can be very disturbing.

What Are the Symptoms of Teeth Grinding?

If you are concerned about teeth grinding, your dentist can look for signs by doing a thorough examination. In fact, many times dentists ask their patients if they grind their teeth because there are physical signs present during routine exams. Symptoms you may notice include:

  • neck pain
  • jaw pain
  • toothaches
  • ear discomfort
  • headaches
  • tooth damage

What Treatments Are Available?

If you have tooth damage from grinding your teeth, the dentist can repair chips and cracks with porcelain veneers, composite fillings, or crowns. If you have missing teeth then your dentist can replace them with crowns, bridges, dentures, or implants. Your dentist can suggest the appropriate treatment for your situation.

How Can People Keep From Grinding Their Teeth?

Your dentist may recommend that you purchase a night guard. Wearing a night guard while you sleep will keep you from grinding your teeth. The mouthpiece takes pressure off the jaw and keeps teeth from touching together.

If teeth grinding stems from stress, you can practice relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation. You should also eliminate caffeine and avoid alcohol because they can both be triggers.

People who grind their teeth often clench their jaw during the day. Train yourself to become aware of the practice so that you can work on stopping it. If you have jaw discomfort, many people find  relief by holding a warm washcloth to their jaw at bedtime.

Even children grind their teeth. There are night guards made in their size if your dentist recommends it. You can also teach your child to massage and stretch the jaw muscles at bedtime. There may be a link between dehydration and teeth grinding. Make sure your child is getting enough water just in case.

Most importantly, if you suspect you are grinding your teeth, inform your dentist. He or she may be able to suggest ways to control the problem before it becomes chronic. Treating the issue early can protect your mouth from permanent damage.

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Why Children Need Mouthguards for Contact Sports

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), 1/3 of all mouth injuries may be related to sports. Mouthguards can decrease the number of injuries when used properly.

Dental injuries include:

  • Chipped/broken teeth
  • Lost teeth
  • Fractured crowns
  • Root damage

Mouthguards cover the upper teeth and should always be used in contact sports such as football, hockey, and boxing. Children who participate in incidental contact sports such as baseball, soccer, gymnastics, volleyball, and wrestling can also benefit from wearing mouthguards.

There are three types of mouthguards currently available to young athletes:

Stock. These inexpensive mouthguards are pre-formed so they can be worn right away. They can be difficult to wear because of their bulkiness. The fit is often uncomfortable because the mouthguard it not adapted to an individual mouth.

Boil and bite. These are the mouthguards often purchased in sporting goods stores. First you boil it in water until it softens. Then you insert it in your child’s mouth so that it can adapt to his or her bite.

Custom. Your dentist fits your child for a custom mouthguard. They cost more than the other two versions but offer the best fit for your child.

If your child wears braces then your dentist may suggest a mouthguard to protect the brackets. Other fixed orthodontal appliances may also require a mouthguard to protect your child’s cheeks and lips from injuries.  Removable appliances such as retainers should never be worn while playing contact sports.

Make sure your child knows how to take care of a mouthguard properly. They need to be rinsed before and after using and cleaned with cool, soapy water every so often. Mouthguards should never be left in the sun and it is best to transport them in a sturdy vented containers. Contact your dentist for advice about the best mouthguard for your child.

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Oral Health for Seniors

Adults today are keeping their natural teeth longer than any other generation in the past. The benefits of keeping your natural teeth include looking great, speaking clearly, and being able to eat all different types of foods and textures. In addition, a healthy mouth is related to your overall health. Good oral health is something to strive for at every age.

Fighting Gum Disease

It is important for you to see your dentist for a checkup at least twice a year, especially as you get older. The nerves in your teeth get smaller and less sensitive over time and may not alert you to a cavity right away. You also need to be checked for signs of gum disease. Advanced gum disease can destroy the bones and ligaments that support your teeth, leading to tooth loss. Regular dental visits help identify signs of early gum disease so you can be treated right away.

Detecting Oral Cancer

You also need to see your dentist regularly so that you can be screened for oral cancer. The American Cancer Society states that the average age people are diagnosed with mouth, throat, and tongue cancers is 62. Detection in the early stages is important. You may not see any symptoms, but if you do they can include open sores or patches on the lining of the mouth.

Treating Dry Mouth

When you visit the dentist, let him know all medications you are taking. Many medications cause dry mouth, including those for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Alzheimer’s disease. Dry mouth is a leading cause of cavities because saliva naturally protects your teeth by controlling bacteria. Fortunately there are ways to increase saliva production, including increased water intake and the use of fluoride gel, sugar-free gum, or over-the-counter oral moisturizers. Your dentist can give you additional suggestions.

Taking Care of Dentures

If you wear full or partial dentures you should clean them every day to remove bacteria. Always use cleaners made specifically for dentures because using ordinary toothpaste can damage them.  In addition, make sure to remove your dentures for a minimum of 24 hours a day to protect the lining of your mouth.

While regular checkups and cleanings are important, it is also essential that you eat a healthy diet. Choosing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is one way to prevent tooth decay. Also avoid processed foods as well as those high in sugar. Working with your dentist is more important than ever as you get older. Together you can keep your mouth healthy which leads to good overall health.

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