Since the 1950s fluoride has played an important role in the fight against tooth decay as an additive to hygiene products and many public water supplies. But although a proven cavity fighter, some have questioned its safety over the years.
To date, though, the only substantiated health risk from fluoride use is a condition known as enamel fluorosis, which occurs when too much fluoride is ingested during early tooth development as the mineral embeds in the tooth structure. Fluorosis can cause changes in the enamel’s appearance, ranging from barely noticeable white streaking to darker visible staining and a pitted texture.
Fluorosis is primarily a cosmetic problem and not a serious health issue. The staining on otherwise sound teeth, however, is permanent and more severe cases may require extensive bleaching treatment to improve appearance. The best strategy is to prevent fluorosis by monitoring and limiting your child’s fluoride intake, until about age 9.
Tooth decay is a more serious condition than fluorosis so we’re not advocating you eliminate fluoride but that you keep your family’s intake within safe levels. The first step is to determine just how much that intake is now, particularly if you drink fluoridated water. If you have public water, you may be able to find its fluoridation level online at apps.nccd.cdc.gov or call the utility directly.
You should also be careful about the amount of toothpaste your child uses to brush their teeth. Children under two need only a trace (a “smear”) on the brush, and children between the ages of 2 and 6 a pea-sized amount. And, they should brush no more than twice a day.
Another possible concern is infant formula, especially mixable powder. While the formula itself doesn’t contain fluoride, water mixed with it may. If you live in an area with increased fluorosis risk, consider breast-feeding (breast milk has little fluoride), using ready-to-feed formula, or mixing powdered formula with bottled water labeled “de-ionized,” “purified,” “demineralized” or “distilled.”
We’ll be glad to help assess your family’s current fluoride intake and advise you on making adjustments to bring it into normal ranges. Taking in the right amount of fluoride assures you and your children receive the most benefit and protection from it, while avoiding future smile problems.
If you would like more information on managing your family’s fluoride intake, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Development and Infant Formula.”
October is national Dental Hygiene month—and it’s a great time to renew your commitment to good oral health. Everyone knows that to enjoy clean teeth and fresh breath, we need to brush and floss every day. But when it comes to the finer points of tooth brushing, there’s a lot of misunderstanding. So here are five tips to help you get the most bang from your brush.
A soft brush is much better for your mouth than a medium or hard one. That’s because stiffer bristles can actually damage soft gum tissue, and over-vigorous brushing can result in gum recession; this may lead to tooth sensitivity and an increased chance of decay. So always choose a soft-bristled tooth brush—and change your brush every three or four months, when its bristles begin to stiffen with use.
It Isn’t (Just) the Brush…
It’s the hand that holds it. Don’t brush too forcefully, or too long. If you consistently brush too hard, try using just three fingers to grip your brush so you apply less force. And if you have questions or need a refresher, just ask us to demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques next time you’re here.
Think Fluoride First
With many different flavors, whiteners and other ingredients in toothpastes, which one should you choose? It’s up to you, as long as your toothpaste contains one vital ingredient—fluoride. This natural mineral has been proven to strengthen tooth enamel and fight cavities. Look for the seal of the American Dental Association (ADA) on the toothpaste tube: this certifies that it’s been tested for safety and effectiveness.
2x2 = Terrific Teeth
According to the ADA, brushing gently for two full minutes, two times a day, is the best way to get rid of plaque and prevent cavities. That’s why it should be an essential part of your oral hygiene routine. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to use dental floss (or another method) to clean the spaces in between your teeth. If you don’t remove plaque from these areas, your cleaning isn’t complete.
Preserve Your Enamel
There are some times when you should avoid brushing—like after you’ve consumed soda, or been sick to your stomach. That’s because the acids in soda and stomach juices actually soften tooth enamel, and brushing can quickly wear it away. In these situations, rinse your mouth out with water and wait at least an hour before you brush.
Practicing good oral hygiene is the best thing you can do for your teeth at home. But don’t forget to come in to the office for regular checkups and professional cleanings! Because no matter how thorough you are, you can’t clean hardened deposits (calculus, or tartar) from your teeth at home: It takes special tools and the skilled hand of your hygienist or dentist to do that.
If you would like more information about tooth brushing and oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Sizing Up Toothbrushes” and “10 Tips for Daily Oral Care at Home.”
It's no secret that many of Hollywood's brightest stars didn't start out with perfectly aligned, pearly-white teeth. And these days, plenty of celebs are willing to share their stories, showing how dentists help those megawatt smiles shine. In a recent interview with W magazine, Emma Stone, the stunning 28-year-old star of critically-acclaimed films like La La Land and Birdman, explained how orthodontic appliances helped her overcome problems caused by a harmful habit: persistent thumb sucking in childhood.
“I sucked my thumb until I was 11 years old,” she admitted, mischievously adding “It's still so soothing to do it.” Although it may have been comforting, the habit spelled trouble for her bite. “The roof of my mouth is so high-pitched that I had this huge overbite,” she said. “I got this gate when I was in second grade… I had braces, and then they put a gate.”
While her technical terminology isn't quite accurate, Stone is referring to a type of appliance worn in the mouth which dentists call a “tongue crib” or “thumb/finger appliance.” The purpose of these devices is to stop children from engaging in “parafunctional habits” — that is, behaviors like thumb sucking or tongue thrusting, which are unrelated to the normal function of the mouth and can cause serious bite problems. (Other parafunctional habits include nail biting, pencil chewing and teeth grinding.)
When kids develop the habit of regularly pushing the tongue against the front teeth (tongue thrusting) or sucking on an object placed inside the mouth (thumb sucking), the behavior can cause the front teeth to be pushed out of alignment. When the top teeth move forward, the condition is commonly referred to as an overbite. In some cases a more serious situation called an “open bite” may develop, which can be difficult to correct. Here, the top and bottom front teeth do not meet or overlap when the mouth is closed; instead, a vertical gap is left in between.
Orthodontic appliances are often recommended to stop harmful oral habits from causing further misalignment. Most appliances are designed with a block (or gate) that prevents the tongue or finger from pushing on the teeth; this is what the actress mentioned. Normally, when the appliance is worn for a period of months it can be expected to modify the child's behavior. Once the habit has been broken, other appliances like traditional braces or clear aligners can be used to bring the teeth into better alignment.
But in Stone's case, things didn't go so smoothly. “I'd take the gate down and suck my thumb underneath the mouth appliance,” she admitted, “because I was totally ignoring the rule to not suck your thumb while you're trying to straighten out your teeth.” That rule-breaking ended up costing the aspiring star lots of time: she spent a total of 7 years wearing braces.
Fortunately, things worked out for the best for Emma Stone: She now has a brilliant smile and a stellar career — plus a shiny new Golden Globe award! Does your child have a thumb sucking problem or another harmful oral habit? For more information about how to correct it, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”
Though you don't like to admit it, you don't floss very often. Oh sure, you know it's important to remove the film of bacteria and food particles called plaque that builds up between and on your teeth. And you know you should do it every day.
It's just that, well… you're not very good at using dental floss.
While it's effective, dental floss takes some technique to hold it with your fingers and work it between your teeth. It can be hard for people to get the hang of it — and some aren't physically able or have obstacles like braces that make it harder.
There is a solution: an oral irrigator. Available for home use for decades, these devices deliver pulsating water at high pressure through a handheld device that looks like a power toothbrush. The water flows through a special tip to loosen and flush out plaque from between teeth.
You may have encountered oral irrigation during dental visits. They're a regular part of dental cleanings especially for treatment of periodontal (gum) disease. Because gum tissue weakened by disease may gradually separate from the teeth, large voids or gaps called periodontal pockets can form. These pockets can become further infected and accumulate plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits) that can also extend to the roots. Oral irrigation is a way to remove much of the plaque from these hard to reach places.
Oral irrigators have also proven effective for orthodontic patients whose brace hardware inhibits regular dental floss. A 2008 study, for example, found orthodontic patients were able to remove five times as much plaque with an oral irrigator as those who used only a manual toothbrush.
If you're simply looking for an effective alternative to dental floss, an oral irrigator is a good choice. We can help choose the right model for you and give you tips on using it. Your goal is the same as if you were using dental floss — remove the plaque between your teeth to keep disease at bay and your smile healthy.
If you would like more information on flossing options, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cleaning Between Your Teeth.”
When he isn’t among the ten players vying for position on the basketball court, Cole Aldrich of the New York Knicks sometimes lets his dangle behind one ear. Mason Plumlee, who plays for the Brooklyn Nets, slips his snugly inside one of his socks during off times. Other players can be seen at timeouts gnawing on them nervously, or tucking them into spandex waistbands. But when the whistle blows, they go into the mouth before the players get on the court.
We’re talking about protective mouthguards, of course. According to a recent story in the New York Times, only a handful of basketball players wore them regularly a few years ago. Today, more and more are wearing them, both in practice and during games. What’s the reason for the change?
Partly, it’s the result of better design and improved construction; today’s mouthguards are more comfortable and better-fitting than ever. Part of it comes from mounting evidence that they work: Research studies have consistently demonstrated the benefits of wearing a mouthguard — not only to protect the teeth, but also to reduce the risk of concussion. And partly, it stems from the growing acceptance that safety is an important aspect of all athletic activity.
If the pros are doing it — shouldn’t you be too? While you may think that only contact sports (such as football) are risky, the fact is that “non-contact” sports like baseball and basketball account for the majority of dental injuries. In fact, the American Dental Association recommends you wear a mouthguard when you participate in activities like handball, soccer, surfing and weight lifting — as well as boxing, skydiving, martial arts and “extreme sports” — whatever that may mean to you.
What’s the best kind of mouthguard? It’s the one that you actually wear, of course! And the most comfortable and best-fitting mouthguard is the one that’s custom-made for you by your dentist. Sure, you can pick up an off-the-shelf mouthguard at a big box store; but it can’t offer you the same level of protection and comfort you’ll get from a mouthguard that is made from a model of your own teeth. Custom-made mouthguards from your dentist are reasonably priced — and by preventing dental trauma, they can save an untold amount of hurt… both to your body and to your pocketbook.
So take a tip from the pros: Get a custom-made mouthguard, and wear it every time you play. But when you’re done playing… how about putting it away in a case?
If you would like more information about custom-made athletic mouthguards, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “An Introduction to Sports Injuries & Dentistry” and “Athletic Mouthguards.”
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