Tag Archives: oral health

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.”

Toothbrushing Tips

toothbrush.

October is National Dental Hygiene Month. It’s a great time to talk about your first line of dental defense: your toothbrush.

Are you getting the most out of your tooth-brushing routine at home? Your toothbrush is the primary tool to maintain oral health on a daily basis, so here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Brush gently twice a day, every day, for two minutes each time using a soft toothbrush. Scrubbing with too much force or with hard bristles can damage gums and tooth enamel.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride is a mineral that builds tooth enamel to prevent tooth decay.
  • Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months or when the bristles start to look frayed, curled, or worn.
  • Rinse out your mouth thoroughly after brushing to get rid of bacteria and food debris that you worked loose from your teeth.
  • Also rinse your toothbrush well after each use to wash away the debris and bacteria you just brushed from your teeth.
  • Let your toothbrush dry out between uses. A toothbrush that is stored in a closed container can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Keep your toothbrush to yourself. Sharing toothbrushes is a way to share disease-causing germs as well.

Follow these pointers and come in for regular dental visits to help ensure healthy teeth and a bright smile. If you have any questions about your dental hygiene routine, be sure to ask us by calling (815) 741-1700.

To learn more, read these informative articles in Dear Doctor magazine: “Manual vs. Powered Toothbrushes” and “10 Tips For Daily Oral Care at Home.”

4 Things You Should be Doing to Maintain a Healthy Mouth

flossing.

Regular dental visits are an important part of maintaining healthy teeth and gums. But it’s what goes on between those visits — daily hygiene and care — that are the real ounce of prevention.

Here are 4 things you should be doing every day to keep your mouth healthy.

Use the right toothbrush and technique. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste at least once every day is a must for removing plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles which is the main cause of dental disease. Your efforts are more effective if you use a soft-bristled, multi-tufted brush that’s replaced often, especially when bristles become splayed and worn. To remove the most plaque and avoid damaging your gums, brush with a gentle, circular motion for at least two minutes over all tooth surfaces.

Don’t forget to floss. Your toothbrush can get to most but not all the plaque on your teeth. Flossing — either with flossing string, pre-loaded flossers or a water irrigator — helps remove plaque from between teeth. Don’t rely on toothpicks either — they can’t do the job flossing can do to remove plaque.

Mind your habits. We all develop certain behavioral patterns — like snacking, for instance. Constant snacking on foods with added sugar (a major food source for bacteria) increases your disease risk. Consider healthier snacks with fresh fruits or dairy, and restrict sugary foods to mealtimes (and the same for sports and energy drinks, which have high acid levels). Stop habits like tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption or chewing on hard objects, all of which can damage your teeth and gums and create a hostile environment in your mouth.

Watch for abnormalities. If you pay attention, you may be able to notice early signs of problems. Bleeding, inflamed or painful gums could indicate you’re brushing too hard — or, more likely, the early stages of periodontal (gum) disease. Tooth pain could signal decay. And sores, lumps or other spots on your lips, tongue or inside of your mouth and throat could be a sign of serious disease. You should contact us if you see anything out of the ordinary.

If you would like more information on how to care for your teeth and gums, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “10 Tips for Daily Oral Care at Home.”

Limit Sugar in Your Diet for Better Oral and General Health

sugar.

Even after decades emphasizing oral hygiene and supplemental fluoride to fight dental disease, we’re now seeing an increase in tooth decay, especially among children. What’s causing this alarming trend?

Many in both the dental and medical professions link this and other health problems to a rise in the amount and consumption of sugar added to food products. A number of years ago our annual average consumption of added sugar was about 4 pounds per person; today, it’s closer to 90 pounds.

The increase in sugar consumption can be traced to the 1970s when the food industry began adding more sugar to make processed foods stripped of oils and fats taste better. Today, 77% of the approximately 600,000 food items sold in the United States contain some form of sugar (under a variety of names).

This additional sugar, however, has produced an unintended consequence: sugar triggers the release of a brain chemical called dopamine that regulates our sense of reward when we engage in a desirable behavior. The excess dopamine creates a weak addiction to sugar, which then leads to overconsumption, contributing to our current obesity epidemic and the rise in health problems like heart disease or Type 2 diabetes. This is especially alarming among children: thirty years ago Type 2 diabetes was unheard of among children — today there are over 55,000 diagnosed pediatric cases.

For both you and your family’s general and dental health, you should consider ways to reduce your sugar intake: purchase and eat most of your food from the “outer edges” of your supermarket — meats, dairy, and fresh vegetables and fruits (which do contain the sugar fructose, but are mostly fiber that slows the liver’s processing of the sugar); limit processed foods with added sugar, and learn to recognize its inclusion in products by reading ingredients labels. You should also be wary of sweetened beverages such as sodas, sports drinks, teas or juices, and try to drink more water.

The recommended daily sugar consumption is less than six teaspoons a day (about two-thirds the amount in one can of soda). By restricting this consumption, you’ll improve your general health and reduce your risk for dental disease.

If you would like more information on the general and dental health effects of sugar, please contact us by calling (630) 352-0242.

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

sugar.

“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.”

How to Clean Your Oral Appliance

cleaning retainer.

Question: What oral health issue do teenagers who wear orthodontic retainers and older folks who wear dentures have in common?

Answer: Both need to pay particular attention to cleaning their oral appliances.

The same goes for anyone who wears a nightguard to control tooth grinding, a mouthguard to protect teeth while playing sports, or a clear aligner for orthodontic treatment. Yet many people aren’t sure how to properly clean their appliances — so here are a few handy tips:

DON’T:

  • Use toothpaste on your appliance — the ingredients in toothpaste, which are designed to polish the hard enamel of your teeth, are too abrasive for the soft plastic of oral appliances, and will cause scratches.
  • Boil your appliance, or use bleach to clean it — both will end up breaking down and destroying the appliance. Don’t even use very hot water, as it can deform the plastic and make the appliance useless.
  • Leave your appliance out on the nightstand, or anywhere else — pets and small children have been known to find (and destroy) oral appliances left lying around. Instead, store it properly in its special case.

DO:

  • Use liquid dish detergent or hand soap to clean your appliance. A little mild soap plus warm water will do a great cleaning job. While you’re at it, get a brush just for the appliance — because, while it’s fine for plastic, you don’t want to brush your teeth with soap!
  • Put a towel in the sink basin when you clean your appliance. Soapy appliances (especially dentures) can be slippery, and can be damaged by dropping — and that’s an expensive mishap.
  • Consider investing in an ultrasonic cleaner. These inexpensive countertop devices are an excellent way to get the tiny ridges and crevices of your appliance really clean.

Whether you rely on dentures for everyday use, or just need to wear a retainer for a period of time, your oral appliance serves an important function. It may also represent a significant investment. That’s why it’s worthwhile to spend a few minutes each day giving these important items the care they need.

If you have questions about oral appliance care, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700.

Top Five Ways to Preserve Your Teeth for Life

cleaning.

You may have heard the expression: “If you just ignore your teeth, they will go away.” That may be true — but by practicing good oral hygiene, more and more people are now able to keep their natural teeth in good condition for their entire life. So we prefer to put a more positive spin on that old saw: “Take care of your teeth and they will take care of you — always.” What’s the best way to do that? Here are our top five tips:

  1. Brush and floss every day. You knew this was going to be number one, right? Simply put, tooth decay and gum disease are your teeth’s number one enemies. Effective brushing and flossing can help control both of these diseases. Using a soft-bristle brush with fluoride toothpaste and getting the floss into the spaces between teeth (and a little under the gum line) are the keys to successful at-home tooth cleaning and plaque removal.
  2. Don’t smoke, or use any form of tobacco. Statistically speaking, smokers are about twice as likely to lose their teeth as non-smokers. And “smokeless” tobacco causes tooth discoloration, gum irritation, an increased risk for cavities, and a higher incidence of oral cancers. Of course, smoking also shortens your life expectancy — so do yourself a favor, and quit (or better yet, don’t start).
  3. Eat smart for better oral (and general) health. This means avoiding sugary between-meal snacks, staying away from sodas (and so-called “energy” or “sports” drinks), and limiting sweet, sticky candies and other smile-spoiling treats. It also means enjoying a balanced diet that’s rich in foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. This type of diet incorporates what’s best for your whole body — including your teeth.
  4. Wear a mouthguard when playing sports. An active lifestyle has many well-recognized health benefits. But if you enjoy playing basketball, bicycling, skiing or surfing — or any other sport where the possibility of a blow to the face exists — then you should consider a custom-fitted mouthguard an essential part of your gear. Research shows that athletes wearing mouthguards are 60 times less likely to suffer tooth damage in an accident than those who aren’t protected — so why take chances with your teeth?
  5. See your dentist regularly. When it comes to keeping your smile sparkling and your mouth healthy, we’re your plaque-fighting partners. We’ll check you for early signs of gum disease or tooth decay — plus many other potential issues — and treat any problems we find before they become serious. We’ll also help you develop healthy habits that will give you the best chance of keeping your teeth in good shape for your whole life.

If you would like to learn more about keeping your teeth healthy for life, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700. For more information, see the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay — The World’s Oldest & Most Widespread Disease” and “Dentistry & Oral Health For Children.”

TLC for Your Toothbrush

toothbrush.

Your toothbrush serves the invaluable purpose of minimizing bacterial buildup (plaque) that can irritate gums and lead to periodontal disease, infection of the bone and tissues supporting your teeth. Brushing also helps dislodge food particles that certain oral bacteria would otherwise feed on, producing acids in the process that can eat through protective tooth enamel and the vulnerable dentin below. Given its importance to your oral health, you can maximize your toothbrush’s effectiveness by using and storing it properly, and replacing it (or the brush head if you have a powered model) regularly.

Using and Storing Your Brush
All that’s needed to dislodge plaque from oral surfaces is a relaxed grip and a gentle jiggling motion. Too much pressure can wear away tooth enamel, cause gum tissue to recede, and shorten the life of your brush head.

When you’re done using your brush:

  1. Thoroughly rinse it to remove any remaining tooth paste, food particles, etc.
  2. If you’re super-vigilant, you also can disinfect your brush by soaking it in mouthwash, brush-sanitizing rinse, or a half water/half hydrogen peroxide solution, or dipping it in boiling water for 5 to 10 seconds.
  3. Air dry in an upright position and do not routinely cover your toothbrush or store it in a closed container. A dark, moist environment is more conducive to the growth of microorganisms.

Replacing and Recycling Your Toothbrush
Even with the best of care, toothbrush bristles become frayed and worn and their cleaning effectiveness diminishes after 3 or 4 months, according to the American Dental Association, though it could be sooner depending on factors unique to each patient. Besides checking the bristles regularly, a good way of keeping track is to write the date you start using your toothbrush in permanent pen on a big-enough spot on the handle (or doing it on masking tape applied to the base of a power brush).

Once your brush has passed its useful life for oral hygiene, you can still get plenty of mileage out of it. You’ll find plenty of ideas on the internet for cleaning grout between tiles and grime-filled spots around taps and toilet lid hinges; removing mud from boot treads; scrubbing off corrosion from around car battery terminals and more!

How often do you change your toothbrush? Tell us below!

If you would like more information about oral hygiene, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Toothbrush Lifespan” and “Manual vs Powered Toothbrushes.”

Good Nutrition: Important for Your Mouth and Your Body

nutrition.

Your general and oral health go hand in hand — whatever is going on with the rest of your body can also affect your teeth, gums and other mouth tissues. That’s why it’s essential that you eat a diet with the right balance of healthy foods, while cutting back on unhealthy ones that contribute to tooth decay and other health issues.

When we refer to healthy foods, we mean foods with high nutritional value. These kinds of foods provide nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water) that build strong bodies (including teeth and gums), fight disease and help our bodies maintain good function on the cellular level.

A healthy diet has three components: variety, eating several different kinds of foods with a wide range of nutrients; balance, eating a proper portion from different food groups; and moderation, eating portions that are enough to meet energy needs and cellular health while not overindulging. It’s important to remember that excess carbohydrates, proteins and fats are stored as body fat, which has an impact on a healthy weight.

In addition, you should also bear in mind how certain foods can have a direct effect on your teeth and gums. Foods with added sugars (such as refined sugar or corn syrup) and starches are a rich food source for decay-causing bacteria; naturally occurring sugars found in fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products are not as great a threat. In this regard, the best approach is to decrease the amount of processed foods in your diet, while increasing your intake of whole foods.

You can also help deter tooth decay with certain foods. Eating cheese after a sweet snack helps prevent an increase in the mouth’s acidic level, a contributing factor in tooth decay. Eating plant foods that require chewing stimulates saliva, which also helps prevent a rise in the acidic level.

Proper nutrition is a key component in maintaining overall good health. It’s just as important for keeping your teeth and gums healthy and functioning.

If you would like more information on nutrition and the part it plays with your oral health, please contact us by calling (630) 352-0242. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition: Its Role in General and Oral Health.”