Tag Archives: illinois dentist

Help Your Kids Have a Healthier Halloween

halloween.

Halloween means loads of fun for kids everywhere: a chance to put on fanciful costumes and have some safe, spooky enjoyment. But the reward for all that trick-or-treating — bags full of sugary candy — can create monstrous problems for young smiles, in the form of tooth decay. Short of taking all those treats away, are there any ways to lessen the impact on your children’s teeth?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the answer is: Yes!

As long as kids are brushing twice and flossing once a day, it’s okay for them to enjoy a few sweet treats on Halloween. But starting that same night, or the next day, you can help protect them from cavities. Here’s how:

Sort It Out:
Some treats are potentially more damaging to teeth than others. For example, candy that’s sticky and clings to teeth — like gummy bears and taffy — takes longer to get cleared away by saliva. Lengthier contact with the teeth increases the risk of tooth decay. The same is true for sweets that stay in the mouth for a long time, like hard candy. Sour candy is often acidic, and that acid can weaken the hard enamel coating of teeth, making them more prone to decay. But there’s some good news: Chocolate, a favorite treat, washes off the teeth relatively quickly — and dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate.

Give It Away:
You can always give away some or all of your candy stash to people who will appreciate it: first responders or troops serving overseas, for example. Some organizations sponsor donation (or even buyback) programs. Try searching the web for programs like “Operation Gratitude,” among others.

Timing Is Everything:
If you do allow candy, limit it to mealtimes. That’s when saliva production is at its peak — and saliva helps neutralize acids and wash away food residue that can cause cavities. Whatever you do, don’t let kids snack on sweet treats from the candy dish throughout the day: This never gives your mouth a chance to bounce back from the sugary saturation.

Get Healthy Hydration:
For quenching thirst, water is the best choice. It helps your body stay properly hydrated and is needed for healthful saliva production. Sugary or acidic beverages like sodas (regular or diet), so-called “sports” or “energy” drinks, and even fruit juices can harm teeth. Fluoridated water (like most municipal tap water) has been shown to help prevent tooth decay. If you drink bottled water, look for a fluoridated variety.

Following these tips — and making sure your kids maintain good oral health with brushing, flossing, and routine dental office visits — will help keep them safe from cavities, not only at Halloween but all year long. If you have questions about cavity prevention or oral hygiene, please contact our office or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay — How to Assess Your Risk” and “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”

Support Your Child’s Teeth Development with Proper Hygiene and Dental Care

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Between infancy and the onset of puberty, your child will grow one set of teeth, lose it and grow another; their jaw structure will also change dramatically. This rapid development sets the course for their oral health later in life.

That’s why it’s so important to care for their teeth and gums in these early stages through daily hygiene and regular dental visits for disease prevention and treatment. Hygiene is the cornerstone of this care, and should begin in earnest when your child’s first tooth erupts in the gums, by first gently cleaning around the newly erupted teeth and gums after each feeding with a water-soaked gauze pad.

As they pass their first birthday you can switch to a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and just a smear of fluoridated toothpaste. Children should begin learning to brush around age 2, first by modeling you as you brush together. They should be adept enough by age 6 to brush on their own, at which time you can introduce flossing. We’re more than happy to advise you on technique for both of these hygiene tasks.

Age one is also the time for them to begin regular dental visits for cleanings and checkups. This will help us stay ahead of any developing decay or other issues and perform preventive treatments like dental sealants or fluoride applications. It will also help your child become comfortable with the dental office, which can make it easier for them to develop a long-term habit of regular dental care.

There are also habits you should practice (or avoid) that support good oral health for your child. For example, you shouldn’t allow them to sleep with a pacifier or a bottle filled with anything but water. Breast milk and formula contain some forms of sugar that bacteria can feed on; if this becomes too frequent it can result in higher acid levels that soften enamel and lead to decay. You should also take preventive actions to protect your child from teeth-damaging injuries like playing too close to hard furniture.

All these common sense measures support your child’s oral development. You can then let Nature takes its course as your child develops a healthy mouth for a lifetime.

If you would like more information on oral care for children, please contact Montrose Dental Clinic, PC by calling (773) 942-7004 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Top 10 Oral Health Tips for Children.”

Limiting Refined Sugar in Your Diet can Reduce Risk of Tooth Decay

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“Cut down on sweets, especially between meals” is perhaps one of the least popular words of advice we dentists regularly give. We’re not trying to be killjoys, but the facts are undeniable: both the amount and frequency of sugar consumption contributes to tooth decay. Our concern isn’t the naturally occurring sugars in fruits, vegetables, grains or dairy products, but rather refined or “free” sugars added to foods to sweeten them.

The World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration both advise consuming no more than 50 grams (about ten teaspoons) of sugar a day. Unfortunately, our nation’s average per person is much higher: we annually consume around 140 pounds per capita of refined sugars like table sugar or high fructose corn syrup, more than three times the recommended amount. Soft drinks are the single largest source of these in our diets — Americans drink an average of 52 gallons every year.

The connection between sugar and tooth decay begins with bacteria that ferments sugar present in the mouth after eating. This creates high levels of acid, which causes the mineral content of tooth enamel to soften and erode (a process called demineralization) and makes the teeth more susceptible to decay. Saliva naturally neutralizes acid, but it takes about thirty minutes to bring the mouth’s pH to a normal level. Saliva can’t keep up if sugars are continually present from constant snacking or sipping on soft drinks for long periods.

You can reduce the sugar-decay connection with a few dietary changes: limit your intake of sugar-added foods and beverages to no more than recommended levels; consume sweets and soft drinks only at meal times; replace sugar-added foods with fresh fruits and vegetables and foods that inhibit the fermentation process (like cheese or black and green teas); and consider using mint or chewing gum products sweetened with xylitol, a natural alcohol-based sugar that inhibits bacterial growth.

Last but not least, practice good oral hygiene with daily brushing and flossing, along with regular office cleanings and checkups. These practices, along with limits on refined sugar in your diet, will go a long way toward keeping your teeth and mouth healthy and cavity-free.

If you would like more information on the relationship of sugar and dental disease, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition & Oral Health.”

Know What to Do – and When – in Case of a Dental Injury

dental injury.

“Don’t panic” is your first priority when faced with a sudden mouth injury. Of course, that may be easier said than done when you or a family member has just experienced a chipped, fractured or even dislodged tooth.

It helps, therefore, to have some idea beforehand on what to do and, especially, when to do it. You should think in terms of immediate, urgent and less urgent injuries: a tooth completely knocked out of its socket requires immediate action — within 5 minutes of the injury; a tooth that’s moved out of its normal position but still in the socket is an urgent matter that needs professional attention within 6 hours; and a chipped tooth is less urgent, but still needs to be seen by a dentist within 12 hours.

As you may have gathered, the most important thing you can do when a dental injury occurs is to contact our office as soon as possible. If for some reason you can’t, you should visit the nearest emergency center.

There are also some actions you should take for a knocked-out permanent tooth because there’s a chance it can be replanted in the socket if you act within 5 minutes of the injury. First, rinse the tooth with cold, clean water (bottled or tap) if it’s dirty. Be sure to handle it gently, avoiding touching the root. Grasping the crown-end with your thumb and index finger, place the tooth into the empty socket and push it firmly into place. Apply light but firm pressure with your hand or a wad of wet tissue to make sure it doesn’t come out. Don’t worry about correct alignment — we can adjust that later during examination.

If the tooth is chipped or broken, try to locate the broken pieces — it may be possible to re-bond them to the tooth. You should store them in a container with milk or the injured person’s saliva (the same can be done for a knocked out tooth if reinserting it isn’t practical). The broken pieces should then be transported with the injured person to emergency treatment.

Taking these actions may not ultimately save a traumatized tooth, but they will certainly raise its chances for survival.

If you would like more information on preventing and treating dental injuries, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries.”

Catherine Zeta-Jones’ Award-Winning Smile

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She received an academy award for best supporting actress in Chicago (2002); she regularly stars in big Hollywood films like Oceans Twelve and Side Effects. And she’s been named one of People magazine’s “most beautiful people” of the year… a total of five times so far. According to big-screen heartthrob Antonio Banderas, “She has one of the most beautiful close-ups in cinematography today.”

So would it surprise you to learn that Catherine Zeta-Jones had a little help from cosmetic dentistry along the way? In her childhood, the actress said, “I was teased because I had a really flat-looking nose, and before I got braces, my teeth used to stick out a bit.” According to press reports, she has also had various dental treatments to make her teeth look whiter and more even.

Because she’s been in the spotlight since a young age, Zeta-Jones had her cosmetic dental treatments performed over a number of years. But if you’re unhappy with your smile right now, there’s no need to wait: Getting a complete “smile makeover” starts with a consultation at our office. How does it work?

We begin with a thorough dental exam to check for any underlying issues, and some basic questions, including: What do you (and don’t you) like about your smile? Are your teeth as even and as white as you’d like them to be? Is your smile too “gummy”, or do the teeth seem too large or small in proportion to your facial features? Do gaps, chips or cracked teeth detract from your appearance?

Next, working together with you, we can develop a plan to correct any perceived problems in your smile. We’ve already mentioned two of the most common ways to enhance a smile that’s less than perfect: orthodontics for straightening crooked teeth, and whitening treatments for a more brilliant smile. If your teeth are otherwise healthy, both treatments can be performed at any time — in fact, more and more of today’s orthodontic patients are adults.

Other treatments that are often used include cosmetic bonding to repair small to moderate chips or cracks in teeth; crowns (caps) to restore teeth with more extensive structural damage; and veneers to remedy a number of defects — including discoloration, small irregularities in tooth spacing, and even teeth that appear too long or too short. Plus, we have even more procedures designed to remedy specific dental issues.

Will having a better smile get you on the “most beautiful people” list? We can’t say for sure. But we think you’ll feel better about yourself… and people will notice.

If you would like more information on smile makeovers, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor articles “The Impact of a Smile Makeover” and “Great Expectations — Perceptions in Smile Design.”

Chronic Jaw Pain: What to do About TMJ Disorders

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Many people suffer from problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ); this can result in chronic pain and severely limit the function of the jaw. Yet exactly what causes the problems, how best to treat them… and even the precise number of people affected (estimates range from 10 million to 36 million) are hotly debated topics.

There are, however, a few common threads that have emerged from a recent survey of people who suffer from temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD). Some of them are surprising: For example, most sufferers are women of childbearing age. And two-thirds of those surveyed say they experienced three or more associated health problems along with TMJD; these include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic headaches, depression, and sleep disturbances. The links between these threads aren’t yet clear.

The survey also revealed some interesting facts about treating TMJD. One of the most conservative treatments — thermal therapy (hot or cold compresses) — was found by 91% to offer the most effective relief of symptoms. By contrast, the most invasive treatment—surgery—was a mixed bag: A slightly higher percentage reported that surgery actually made the condition worse compared to those who said it made them better.

So what should you do if you think you may have TMJD? For starters, it’s certainly a good idea to see a dentist to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. If you do have TMJD, treatment should always begin with some conservative therapies: moist heat or cold packs, along with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications if you can tolerate them. Eating a softer diet, temporarily, may also help. If you’re considering more invasive treatments, however, be sure you understand all the pros and cons — and the alternatives — before you act. And be sure to get a second opinion before surgery.

If you would like more information about temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD), please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Chronic Jaw Pain And Associated Conditions” and “Seeking Relief from TMD.”

Bleeding Gums may be a Warning Sign of Gum Disease

gum disease.

If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth, it’s unlikely the cause is brushing too hard. The more common reason (especially if you’re experiencing little to no pain) is periodontal (gum) disease caused by the accumulation of bacterial deposits known as dental plaque and calculus where your teeth and gums meet.

This bacterial dental plaque results in an infection in the soft tissues of the gum; the body responds to this infection with antibodies, which in turn cause the gums to become swollen, or inflamed. As this biological “war” rages on, both the infection and inflammation become chronic. The tissues are weakened from this disease process and bleed easily.

Bleeding gums, then, is an important warning sign of possible gum disease. As the infection progresses the normal attachment between the teeth and gums begins to break down and form pockets in the void. The infection will continue within these pockets, eventually spreading deeper into the gums and bone. The gum tissue may begin to recede, resulting in bone loss and, if untreated, to tooth loss.

In the early stages of the disease, bleeding gums could be the only symptom you notice. It’s possible the bleeding may eventually stop, but this doesn’t mean the disease has, and is more likely advancing. If you’ve encountered bleeding gums, you should visit us as soon as possible for a complete examination.

There’s a two-pronged approach for treating gum disease. The first prong — and top priority — is to remove as much of the offending bacterial plaque and harder deposits (calculus) as possible, along with the possibility of follow-up antibacterial and antibiotic treatment. This may require more than one session, but it’s necessary in stopping the disease. The second prong is instituting proper oral hygiene: daily brushing and flossing (using proper techniques we can teach you) and semi-annual professional cleanings in our office to remove any plaque or calculus not removed with brushing.

Bleeding gums is your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right with your gums. The sooner you seek diagnosis and treatment, the better your chances of halting the damage caused by the disease.

If you would like more information on bleeding gums as a warning sign of gum disease, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bleeding Gums.”