Monday, February 5, 2018

How to Help Your Child Develop Good Oral Hygiene Habits

February marks National Children's Dental Health Month. It's important for children to form daily oral hygiene habits early, but how do you get little ones to take care of their teeth? Try these tips:

Describe your actions. When children are too young to brush on their own, gently brush their teeth for them, narrating as you go so they learn what toothbrushing entails. For example, "Brush, brush, brush, but not too hard," or "Smile big. Let's get the front teeth. Now let's get the teeth in the very back."

Make learning fun. Around age 3, children can start learning to brush their own teeth. To model proper technique, play follow the leader as you and your child brush teeth side by side, making sure to get all tooth surfaces. Then you both can swish and spit. After brushing together, brush your child's teeth again to make sure hard-to-reach surfaces are clean. Note that children generally need help brushing until at least age 6.

Encourage ownership and pride. Children feel more invested in their oral health when they get to pick out their own supplies, such as a toothbrush with their favorite character and toothpaste in a kid-friendly flavor. To boost pride in a job well done, reward your child with a sticker or star after they brush their teeth.

Keep your child brushing for two minutes. According to the American Dental Association, toothbrushing should be a two-minute task. To pass the time, play a favorite song or download a tooth-brushing app designed to keep kids brushing the recommended two minutes. For increased motivation, electric toothbrushes for children often have a built-in two-minute timer as well as appealing characters, lights and sounds.

And don't forget one more key to a lifetime of good oral health - regular dental visits. If you have questions about your child's dental hygiene or if it's time to schedule a dental visit, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles "Dentistry & Oral Health for Children" and "Top 10 Oral Health Tips for Children."

How Teeth Whitening Brings Out Tara Lipinski's Winning Smile

What does it take to win a gold medal in figure skating at the Winter Olympics? Years and years of practice... a great routine... and a fantastic smile. When Tara Lipinski won the women's figure skating competition at the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan, she became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event in Winter Olympics history - and the whole world saw her winning smile.

"I love to smile, and I think it's important - especially when you're on-air," she recently told Dear Doctor magazine. "I am that person who's always smiling."

Tara's still skating, but these days you're more likely to see her smile on TV: as a commentator for the 2018 Winter Olympics, for example. And like many other athletes and celebrities in the public eye - and countless regular folks too - Tara felt that, at a certain point, her smile needed a little brightening to look its best.

"A few years ago, I decided to have teeth whitening. I just thought, why not have a brighter smile? I went in-office and it was totally easy," she said.

In-office teeth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures. In just one visit, it's possible to lighten teeth by up to ten shades, for a difference you can see right away. Here in our office, we can safely apply concentrated bleaching solutions for quick results. These solutions aren't appropriate for home use. Before your teeth are whitened, we will perform a complete examination to make sure underlying dental problems aren't dimming your smile.

It's also possible to do teeth whitening at home - it just takes a bit longer. We can provide custom-made trays that fit over your teeth, and give you whitening solutions that are safe to use at home. The difference is that the same amount of whitening may take weeks instead of hours, but the results should also make you smile. Some people start with treatments in the dental office for a dramatic improvement, and then move to take-home trays to keep their smiles looking bright.

That's exactly what Tara did after her in-office treatments. She said the at-home kits are "a good way to - every couple of months - get a little bit of a whiter smile."

So if your smile isn't as bright as you'd like, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles "Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered" and "Tooth Whitening Safety Tips."

Prompt Treatment for Gum Disease Could Ultimately Save Your Teeth

Your smile isn't the same without healthy gums - neither are your teeth, for that matter. So, maintaining your gums by protecting them from periodontal (gum) disease is a top priority.

Gum disease is caused by bacterial plaque, a thin biofilm that collects on teeth and is not removed due to poor oral hygiene practices. Infected gums become chronically inflamed and begin to weaken, ultimately losing their firm attachment to the teeth. This can result in increasing voids called periodontal pockets that fill with infection. The gums can also shrink back (recede), exposing the tooth roots to further infection.

Although gum disease treatment techniques vary, the overall goal is the same: remove the bacterial plaque fueling the infection. This most often involves a procedure called scaling with special hand instruments to manually remove plaque and calculus (tartar). If the infection has spread below the gum line we may need to use a procedure called root planing in which we scrape or "plane" plaque and calculus from the root surfaces.

As we remove plaque, the gums become less inflamed. As the inflammation subsides we often discover more plaque and calculus, requiring more treatment sessions. Hopefully, our efforts bring the disease under control and restorative healing to the gums.

But while gum tissue can regenerate on its own, it may need some assistance if the recession was severe. This assistance can be provided through surgical procedures that graft donor tissues to the recession site. There are a number of microsurgical approaches that are all quite intricate to perform, and will usually require a periodontist (a specialist in gum structures) to achieve the most functional and attractive result.

While we have the advanced techniques and equipment to treat and repair gum disease damage, the best approach is to try to prevent the disease from occurring at all. Prevention begins with daily brushing and flossing, and continues with regular dental cleanings and checkups.

And if you do notice potential signs of gum disease like swollen, reddened or bleeding gums, call us promptly for an examination. The sooner we diagnose and begin treatment the less damage this progressive disease can do to your gums - and your smile.

If you would like more information on protecting your gums, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "Periodontal Plastic Surgery."

Don't Ignore Tooth Pain - You May Need a Root Canal

Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases in the world, nearly as prevalent as the common cold. It's also one of the two major dental diseases - the other being periodontal (gum) disease - most responsible for tooth and bone loss.

Tooth decay begins with high levels of acid, the byproduct of oral bacteria feeding on food remnants like sugar. Acid can erode tooth enamel, leading to a cavity that will require removal of decayed material around it and then a filling.

Sometimes, though, decay can spread deeper into the tooth reaching all the way to its core: the pulp with its bundle of nerves and blood vessels. From there it can travel through the root canals to the bone. The continuing damage could eventually lead to the loss of the infected tooth.

If decay reaches the tooth interior, the best course of action is usually a root canal treatment. In this procedure we access the pulp through the crown, the visible part of the tooth, to remove all of the diseased and dead tissue in the pulp chamber.

We then reshape it and the root canals to receive a filling. The filling is normally a substance called gutta percha that's easily manipulated to conform to the shape of the root canals and pulp chamber. After filling we seal the access hole and later cap the tooth with a crown to protect it from re-infection.

Root canal treatments have literally saved millions of teeth. Unfortunately, they've gained an undeserved reputation for pain. But root canals don't cause pain - they relieve the pain caused by tooth decay. More importantly, your tooth can gain a new lease on life.

But we'll need to act promptly. If you experience any kind of tooth pain (even if it goes away) you should see us as soon as possible for an examination. Depending on the level of decay and the type of tooth involved, we may be able to perform the procedure in our office. Some cases, though, may have complications that require the skills, procedures and equipment of an endodontist, a specialist in root canal treatment.

So, don't delay and allow tooth decay to go too far. Your tooth's survival could hang in the balance.

If you would like more information on tooth decay treatment, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "Root Canal Treatment: What You Need to Know."

Monday, November 27, 2017

A Topical Fluoride Treatment Could Protect Your Child from Tooth Decay

A lot happens in your child's mouth from infancy to early adulthood. Not surprisingly, it's the most active period for development of teeth, gums and jaw structure. Our primary goal as care providers is to keep that development on track.

One of our main concerns, therefore, is to protect their teeth as much as possible from tooth decay. This includes their primary ("baby") teeth: although your child will eventually lose them, a premature loss of a primary tooth to decay could cause the incoming permanent tooth to erupt out of proper position. And we of course want to protect permanent teeth from decay during these developmental years as well.

That's why we may recommend applying topical fluoride to your child's teeth. A naturally occurring chemical, fluoride helps strengthen the mineral content of enamel. While fluoride can help prevent tooth decay all through life, it's especially important to enamel during this growth period.

Although your child may be receiving fluoride through toothpaste or drinking water, in that form it first passes through the digestive system into the bloodstream and then to the teeth. A topical application is more direct and allows greater absorption into the enamel.

We'll typically apply fluoride in a gel, foam or varnish form right after a professional cleaning. The fluoride is a much higher dose than what your child may encounter in toothpaste and although not dangerous it can cause temporary vomiting, headache or stomach pain if accidentally swallowed. That's why we take extra precautions such as a mouth tray (similar to a mouth guard) to catch excess solution.

The benefits, though, outweigh this risk of unpleasant side effects, especially for children six years or older. Several studies over the years with thousands of young patients have shown an average 28% reduction in decayed, missing or filled teeth in children who received a fluoride application.

Topical fluoride, along with a comprehensive dental care program, can make a big difference in your child's dental care. Not only is it possible for them to enjoy healthier teeth and gums now, but it could also help ensure their future dental health.

If you would like more information on topical fluoride and other dental disease prevention measures, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "Fluoride Gels Reduce Decay."

Give Yourself the Gift of a New Smile

The holidays are a season for giving. At this time of year, lots of us spend hours rushing around, looking for the perfect gifts for people we care about. But sometimes, amidst all the hustle and bustle, it doesn't hurt to step back and think about yourself a little. If a better-looking smile has been on your list but you haven't taken the first steps, the holiday season might be the right time to give yourself a gift.

Many smile problems, like discolored, chipped or uneven teeth, can be resolved with veneers-wafer-thin porcelain shells that cover the front surfaces of teeth. Veneers are custom-made just for you: They can have a pearly luster to match your existing teeth, or be Hollywood-white for a dazzling red-carpet smile. In just a few visits to the dental office, you can have the smile you've always wanted-and a whole new look for the New Year.

If damaged or missing teeth are what's bothering you, you'll be happy to know that there are lots of good options for replacing them. If the tooth's roots are still in good shape, a crown or cap could be the answer. This is a sturdy replacement for the entire visible part of the tooth that not only looks great, but also functions well in your bite-and can last for years to come.

If teeth are missing or can't be saved, we offer several options for replacement, including fixed (non-removable) bridgework and dental implants. A tried-and-true method for replacing one or more missing teeth, bridges are firmly supported by healthy teeth next to the gap in your smile. These teeth must be prepared to receive the bridge by having some of the tooth's surface removed.

Dental implants are today's premier option for tooth replacement. In this high-tech system, a root-like titanium insert, placed directly into the bone beneath the gum, forms a solid anchorage for the visible part of the replacement tooth. Implants look and feel completely natural, and can last for many years. Plus, they don't require any work to be done on nearby teeth.

What kind of smile makeover is right for you? Just ask us! We will be happy to take a look at your smile and recommend a treatment plan. And in this season of generosity, there's no better gift you can give yourself than a bright new smile.

To learn more about Beautiful Smiles by Design, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about smile makeovers by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "Beautiful Smiles by Design."

Holiday Tips for Healthier Teeth

As the old song says, "'Tis the season to be jolly." And for many of us, the year-end holidays offer a perfect opportunity to break out of our daily routine and get together with co-workers, friends and family. Whether it's a casual gathering at home or a night on the town, one thing is for sure: There's likely to be plenty of food and drinks at hand to keep the good times rolling.

We're not going to say that you should never indulge in a sugar cookie or a tumbler of eggnog. But everyone knows that too much of a good thing can be bad for your health. So here are some simple tips to help keep your oral health in good shape while you're enjoying the holiday season.

Choose Healthier Snacks - good-tasting munchies don't have to be bad for you. Plant-based hors d'oeuvres like hummus with raw vegetables can be just as delicious and satisfying as chips and dip-and a lot healthier, with plenty of vitamins and fiber, and little or no sugar. Cheese, yogurt and other dairy products, eaten in moderation, can actually be beneficial for your oral health: they can stimulate the flow of saliva and restore minerals to the teeth. If you choose to eat sweet snacks, limit them to around mealtimes. That way, your mouth gets a break from sugar and acid in between meals.

Drink Plenty of Water - Sure, there are plenty more exotic beverage choices. But for better health, alternate those fancy drinks with glasses of water. Sugary, acidic beverages like soda (or even juice) can feed decay-causing bacteria and weaken the tooth's enamel, leading to cavities. Alcohol dries out the mouth, which can cause a number of oral health problems. But water promotes the body's production of beneficial saliva, and keeps you healthy and hydrated. It also helps neutralize tooth-eroding acid and wash away sticky food residue that can cling to your teeth.

Don't Neglect Your Oral Health Routine - Sure, between frantic holiday shopping and eagerly anticipated get-togethers, it may seem like there aren't enough hours in the day. But it's always important to maintain your regular oral health routine-and even more so at this time of year. Brushing twice a day for two minutes each time and flossing once a day are proven ways to prevent cavities and gum disease. Find a few minutes to take care of yourself and you can keep your smile looking good all year long.

The holidays are a time for friends, family, fun and celebration. We offer these suggestions with our best wishes for a safe and healthy season. If you would like more information about how to maintain good oral health-during the holidays or any time of year, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. Read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles "Nutrition and Oral Health" and "10 Tips for Daily Oral Care at Home."