You’re worried about your child, and not sure what the right questions to ask are. That’s entirely normal. This article will help guide you through important questions to consider.

Basic Questions to Ask Your Dentist

Let’s start with the basics. These are also questions that you should ask right upfront. They may seem obvious, but they work as conversation starters to let your dentist know that you’re ready for a serious talk.

Does my child need anesthesia for a dental procedure?

Anesthesia means that your child is “put under” or is made unconscious. There is still debate among dentists about the risks versus the rewards of using anesthesia on children. Do your research and form your own opinion. Anesthetization is an essential point to agree on.

What medicines will be used for sedation?

Generally, these will be things like numbing agents or possibly anesthesia. Anything else should be noted. It also offers an opportunity to bring up personal medical information of the child, like allergies.

Is the person who is administering the sedation experienced with children my kid’s age?

Typically, the professional will be trained and experienced. However, dealing with a small child is different from dealing with an adult or teenager. Dentist’s offices can be hectic places, show concern here as a reminder to the dentist that you expect the best person for the job.

Will there be any restraints such as a Papoose Board?

How comfortable is your child with visits to the dentist? What are restraints necessary? Again, start the conversation about critical issues. Don’t wait for the dentist to initiate the conversation.

Listen to your instincts. If your gut feeling is to get a second opinion, then ask your current dentist, “is this a crisis? Can it wait a year or two?” Hint: few dental problems constitute a crisis.

The rest of the article walks you through questions for each of the three stages of a procedure. You can treat these like a check-list to go through with your dentist.

Questions Before the Procedure

1. Who will provide the preoperative evaluation? The child’s medical history, allergies, prescription medications, and previous illnesses and hospitalizations all need to be taken into account.

2. What, and for how long, are the food and drink restrictions prior to the procedure? Is fasting necessary? Can my child still have water?

3. Does my child need sedation medication (administered at home) prior to the procedure? What should I watch for? What constitutes an emergency? If one should arise, what contact number should I have on-hand?

4. What kind of training does the person administering the sedation or anesthesia have? What about the experience with children the same age as mine? What certifications does this person hold? (Note that different levels of sedation often mean dental boards and national associations must meet different standards).

5. Does the dental office have all the permits and licenses required by the state dental board required for the level of sedation or anesthesia offered? It might seem insulting, but a dental office that has gone through the trouble of proper certifications will likely be proud to share them. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Questions During the Procedure

1. What is the level of sedation suggested? Just numbing, or will there be anesthesia?

Here are the different levels of sedation. Know which levels you are comfortable with having administered to your child.

● Minimal Sedation – Relaxed and Awake
● Moderate – Sleepy but Awake
● Deep Sedation – Barely Awake
● General Anesthetist – Unconscious

2. What emergency equipment, staff, and plans are kept at-the-ready during the procedure? Here is a question to keep in mind at every stage of the process. Nothing provides peace of mind like a solid plan of action.

3. Does the office have an EKG? What about blood pressure, pulse oximetry, and end-tidal carbon dioxide monitors? These are all standard equipment for licensed dentistry offices.

Questions Post Procedure

Finally, we have post-procedure questions. You may feel like your out of the woods, but here is where your child is most vulnerable to any complications

1. How will monitoring the child go after the procedure? What emergency medications, equipment, or procedures should be kept on-hand?

2. Is there an official written response plan provided by the office?

3. What is the best emergency contact number to use should a complication arise? Should you call the dentist’s office directly based on specific symptoms?

This article will equip you with explanations and information on how to identify and address this common and harmful condition. Occlusal disease is the most common and most undiagnosed disorder in terms of oral health. The reason for it’s under or misdiagnosis is due to it also being the least understood disease in dentistry.

“Occlusion” means “bite.” It refers to how the upper and lower teeth meet whenever the jaw closes. The damage done by Occlusal disease often goes unnoticed, yet it remains a highly destructive condition. The best way to treat Occlusal disease is by visiting an orthodontist. For a clearer picture of what the disease is and what damage it does, read on.

Occlusal Disease

The disease potentially damages your joints, muscles, periodontium, and teeth. All of this makes up what is known as the “entire masticatory apparatus” in dentistry terms. The condition happens when your teeth are out of alignment so significantly that it harms your teeth, jaw muscles, and joints. Keep in mind that misaligned teeth may appear straight.

Some associated problems with occlusal disease are broken or fractured fillings. Mobile teeth mean teeth that aren’t still in their sockets and such teeth can become excessively worn due to misalignment and being overworked as a result. Tiny fractures can surface as a result, which is known as Cracked Tooth Syndrome and sometimes occurs below the gum line. Finally, occlusal disease can result in total tooth loss.

In our modern times, tooth loss is less prevalent. Occlusal disease, on the other hand, has increased, especially in senior demographics. When occlusal disease is caught early on, a great deal of pain and costs can be avoided.

Consequences of Occlusal Disease

Occlusal disease affects the masticatory, phonetic, and aesthetic functions, meaning your ability to chew, speak, and the appearance of your teeth and jaw. Muscle pain may make it difficult to eat and tooth fractures or missing teeth cause difficulties chewing and swallowing as well. Overall, tooth sensitivity increases in various ways.

If occlusal disease often remains undiagnosed because of patterns of use of jaw, joints, and muscles when chewing. New patterns arise in order to compensate for misalignment or faulty positioning, hence masking the disease itself. Another reason occlusal disease goes under the diagnostic radar is because the signs and symptoms often seem unrelated to one’s bite. To get a better idea, let’s cover the symptoms of occlusal disease.

Symptoms

Blunt Appearance
Wear on the biting surface (blunt appearance). Sometimes described as the teeth having been buzz-sawed horizontally.

Loose Teeth
The teeth may so loose that they move in their sockets. This could be because of other reasons, such as tooth decay.

Sensitive Teeth
Teeth may become sensitive to chewing or hot and cold temperatures. Again, this is often mistaken for cavities formed from tooth decay and does not necessarily suggest misalignment.

Fracture-Prone Teeth
Because the teeth may not be sturdy in their sockets or properly aligned, chewing becomes inefficient and can cause fractures.

Soreness, Headaches, and Popping
A sore jaw, frequent headaches, or jaw joints that pop and click are all signs of occlusal disease.

Acid Reflux
Excess acid present in the mouth is another indicator of occlusal disease

Breathing Disorders
Certain breathing disorders, including Sleep Apnea, have been linked to occlusal disease.

Correction
The most important thing to understand about correcting occlusal disease is that this problem doesn’t go away on its own. The more time passes, the worse the problem gets and more correction means higher costs.

Corrective steps administered by a professional orthodontist are necessary. Treatment must be administered to correct alignment first, however, different approaches are necessary. Occlusal disease is never completely the same for two individuals. Some examples of occlusal disease are overbite, underbite, and crossbite. Each requires a different method of treatment from an orthodontist.

Restorative measures, such as enamel reshaping, can balance a bite whenever an imbalance exists. Crowns, inlays, onlays, and dental veneers can help to build up teeth. These work to prevent further damage by reinforcing the enamel, the structure of the tooth, and protect the softer tissue beneath the enamel known as “dentin.”

Teeth grinding, especially at night, can contribute to occlusal disease. Investing in a splint or night guard prevents grinding from wearing down teeth as well as jaw pain.

You’ve heard about the dangers of sugars before. So much that “health” and “sugar” seem to be conflicting terms. You’re right.. Sugar and health don’t go together and in this article, we’ll explore how sugar affects your dental health.

Results of A High-Sugar Diet

A high-sugar diet causes blood glucose levels (a.k.a. blood sugar) to soar and dive. The drastic fluctuations can make you feel tired, moody, and generally ill. Sugar makes you crave more sugar. A steady sugar-intake keeps your blood glucose unstable and perpetuates the cycle.

Coronary Artery Disease, Diabetes, Cancer, and Obesity

While your sugar intake continues and your blood glucose levels are on a roller coaster ride, complications begin to develop. Excessive sugar over a long period of time is the leading cause of Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Heart disease and Cancer are connected to higher insulin levels, which are a direct result of high-sugar diets. Sugar is also known to suppress your immune system and increases the production of unwanted bacteria and yeast.

Accelerated Aging

Sugar attaches to proteins in your blood by a process called glycation. The result is a loss in elasticity in the skin, which causes sagging and wrinkling.

Tooth Decay and Gum Disease

Sugar molecules combine with saliva and bacteria. Plaque forms on the teeth as a result and dissolves enamel. The process continues until cavities form. Once gum disease starts, it continues to advance. The body does not correct this on its own like it would with a common cold. If left uncorrected, gum disease can turn into periodontitis, which is an inflammation of the tissues, ligaments, and bones beneath the gums. Periodontitis can give way to bacteria that travel throughout the body, invade joints, connective tissues, and even organs. Gum disease doesn’t just stay in the mouth. Once the infection spreads, it can lead to heart disease through blood clots that clog arteries.

3 Factors to Consider in Cavity Formation

Saliva

Saliva does several things. It lubricates your mouth, helps break down food, but it also mineralizes your teeth. The volume, prevalence of minerals, and pH are all critical factors of saliva to consider.

Oral Microbiome

The gut microbiome is a popular topic in health. Your oral microbiome refers to the world of bacteria present in your mouth. The balance of microbes (neutral, harmful, and beneficial) determines greatly the likelihood of cavities to form.

Diet

Diet is a huge factor. Even with proper maintenance and hygiene, a poor diet low in nutrients and minerals can be a significant contributor to cavity formation. The food you eat has a direct impact on your oral microbiome and saliva. A lousy diet means harmful bacteria, which in turn produces tooth decay. Sugar feeds bacteria that produce acids that eat away your teeth. Your saliva combats this by mineralizing your teeth. Over time this demineralizes your body.

Carbohydrates turn to glucose (sugar), which feeds the harmful bacteria — again leading to tooth decay. Studies show that children who regularly snack on processed junk food like potato chips and cookies are at least four times as likely to form cavities.

Here’s a brief list of foods that are fan favorites of cavities.
● Pastry sweets
● Fruit juice
● Candy
● Dried fruit
● Soda (especially dark cola)
● Wine & Alcohol

The Battle of Demineralization and Mineralization

The back-and-forth battle in your mouth follows something like this: First, sugar attracts dangerous bacteria. Next, the bacteria produce acids that eat away at teeth (tooth decay). Lastly, saliva works to reverse the decline (mineralization). The cycle repeats as minerals and enamel is lost. Teeth are weakened, destroyed, and cavities form.

Other Sugary Factors You Were Afraid to Know

Sugar lowers your mouth’s pH (pH of 5.5 or lower dissolves minerals) which makes your mouth more acidic and causes bad breath. Sugar is best treated by brushing after every meal or altogether avoided.

Breath mints, hard candies, dried fruit, and lollipops are all sticky foods that give harmful bacteria plenty of time to digest the sugar and produce more acids.

Any food that lingers in the mouth is suspected of causing cavities.

Insurance coverage of visits to the dentist continues to deliver surprises. Many people feel cheated and taken advantage of. But is the dentist to blame or the insurance company? Misconceptions are common, and dental insurance distinguishes itself from medical insurance in a number of ways.

This article will cut down and clear up ten of the most common myths about Dental Insurance.

Myth 1 – It’s the Same as Health Insurance

The difference becomes apparent when considering premiums and deductibles. In and out of network coverage varies as well. Co-pays and what treatments are covered often depends more on the insurance provider than the plan selected. Looking at the nature of each of these categories as compared to health insurance, and you’ll find that nothing behaves the same. The solution: don’t expect your dental insurance to behave like health insurance.

Myth 2 – Putting Off Procedures Can Save Out of Pocket Costs

It may work in theory because your insurance only covers so much per year. In reality, dental problems get costlier as you put them off. Missed cleanings become cavities, become root canals, become crowns. Braces and correcting the dreaded occlusal disease is not cheap either.

Myth 3 – All Dentist Are the Same, Shop by Price

There are three specific areas where you’ll find dentists distinguish themselves within. Don’t let price be the only thing you consider.

Cosmetics – What will the results look like?
Function & Longevity – How effective is the treatment offered, and for how long will you have to undergo treatment?
Comfort – How comfortable will the treatment be?

Instead of just shopping for price, shop in these categories first. Which one resonates with you the most? Once you have that in mind, then compare the prices of various dentists.

Myth 4 – Benefits Dictate Quality of Care

Many dentists work to help you get the most out of your dental insurance. They usually felt “left out of the conversation” in terms of what your insurance covers. Apply this by shopping for dentists based on your needs instead of your insurance coverage.

Myth 5 – Benefit Allowance Is for Emergencies Only

Unlike health insurance, dental insurance is not designed for emergency care. There simply aren’t nearly as many emergencies. Regular preventive care packages are usually the best there is.

Myth 6 – Many Dentists Don’t Accept insurance

Here is where much of the confusion and frustration is generated. The idea started with practitioners complaining about the complexity and difficulty in dealing with insurance companies, however, it’s extremely unlikely that your dentist would choose not to accept insurance as a policy of his practice. Understand that dentists are largely left out of the conversation about what procedures are covered.

Myth 7 If You Don’t Have A Dental Benefit Allowance, You Can’t Go to the Dentist

Even if you don’t have insurance, you can still visit the dentist. Not only that, but it’s advisable to go both for your health and finances. Going early to the dentist will save you money in the long run. Complications of tooth decay and cavities get more expensive with the time. An out of pocket cleaning is cheaper than a co-pay for a root canal. Dentists are members of a helping profession. They want the best for your oral health. Most of them are very willing to discuss options and help you figure out the best financial plan of action.

Myth 8 – Most Dental Plans Cover $1000-$1500 Per year

The short answer is to be prepared to cover more of your premiums $1000-$1500 per year has been the standard for decades and hasn’t been keeping up with increased costs. Opt for preventive care often. Get the filling so you can avoid the root canal.

Myth 9 – The Dentist Should Be Familiar with Your Plan, What It Covers, and What It Doesn’t

Dental insurance coverage of procedures is between you and the insurance provider, as crazy as they may seem. Get in touch with your dentist and discuss your options beforehand.

Myth 10 – Dental Insurance Is “Supposed” to Make Going to the Dentist Cheap

Think of it more like a coupon than a full-coverage plan. Insurance companies exist to make a profit.

For that reason, know specifically which benefits you are paying for. This is what you’ll be taking to the bank. Lastly, don’t let insurance dictate treatment. Otherwise, you will lose money down the road.

Mouth sores (sometimes called mouth ulcers) can be identified by their location. Canker sores only occur inside the mouth, whereas cold sores form on the outside of your mouth, usually on the skin near your lip.

Cold sores are caused by a virus and are therefore contagious. Canker sores, on the other hand, are instigated by a variety of factors but cannot be spread.

Most mouth sores heal on their own. Usually, they are harmless, unless your immune system has been compromised by a chronic illness such as cancer or HIV/AIDs.

If you have a mouth sore that does not go away for several weeks, or if your symptoms are recurring, you should contact your doctor. Some sores can be indicators of mouth or neck cancer, or they may be the result of an infection.

Canker Sores

Canker sores can develop on the soft tissue inside your mouth. They do not form on your gums or the roof of your mouth, though they may develop along the base of your gums. You’ll often find canker sores on the inside of your lip or the wall of your mouth.

Canker sores start as a raised bump and then turn into an open sore. These sores make it difficult to eat or drink, and they also make brushing and flossing a challenge. Thankfully, canker sores don’t last long, typically any more than two weeks. They should go away on their own, though there are some strategies you can use to monitor the pain:

  1. Use a topical gel or patch. This helps protect the sore from spicy, hot, or acidic foods and other irritants, i.e. if the affected area is bumped or jostled.
  2. Take vitamin supplements. Canker sores have been linked with a B-12 vitamin deficiency. Consider taking supplements if you are having routine troubles with canker sores.
  3. Avoid irritating foods. These can be acidic foods like tomatoes or citrus fruits, spicy dishes, hot beverages and foods with a rough or crunchy texture.
  4. Use mouth rinses. You can mix water with a teaspoon of salt for a basic salt rinse. However, medicated mouthwashes may be more effective. You should be able to purchase a medicated rinse in your local pharmacy without a prescription.

Canker sores have been linked with vitamin and sleep deficiencies, stress, and hormone changes (often menstruation or pregnancy). They also often result from injuries in the mouth, such as burns from hot foods or cuts from orthodontic appliances or sports.

Canker sores are also caused by food allergies. They are often paired with chronic illnesses like celiac or inflammatory bowel disease. People with drier mouths have a higher risk of developing canker sores.

Cold Sores

Cold sores form along the outside of your mouth, usually near your lip. They can also form inside your mouth or nostrils.

These sores can be caused by the herpes simplex virus HSV-1. This is not the same as HSV-2, genital herpes, though the two illnesses are related. Once you contract HSV-1, it will live in your system throughout your lifetime. The virus will remain dormant, but you may periodically experience flare-ups due to stress, hormone changes, or a lowered immune system from illness or surgery.

Cold sores have several stages. First, you may feel tingling or itching around your mouth before a small blister develops. These blisters may spread to other spots around your mouth and will eventually burst before they ooze and crust over. Cold sores are very contagious, so you should avoid touching the affected area for fear of spreading it.

Cold sores usually heal on their own within seven to ten days. You shouldn’t need to contact your doctor unless your symptoms persist longer than usual. If your immune system is compromised by cancer treatment or HIV/AIDs, you need to take action against cold sores immediately to avoid serious complications.

If you have cold sores, you should consider:

  • Antiviral ointments. Topical creams like acyclovir and penciclovir can shorten recovery times, but they must be used as soon as you experience itching or tingling, otherwise, they may not help.
  • Antiviral medications. Valacyclovir, acyclovir, and famciclovir are commonly used to shorten your recovery time for cold sores. People with routine outbreaks will often turn to these medicines.
  • Topical ointments to relieve discomfort. While these creams cannot speed up your recovery, they will soothe pain and keep the sore moisturized. Be sure to wash your hands after applying the ointment and do not share the medication with others.
  • Painkillers. Ibuprofen and Tylenol can help relieve discomfort.
  • Avoiding contagion. To avoid spreading the virus to others, do not share food or utensils and avoid physical contact near the mouth. Wash your hands with soap and warm water if you touch the affected area. Be careful not to touch other sensitive areas of your body where the virus could easily spread, such as the eyes or genitals.

Your dental health is important for the health of your baby. Changes in your hormones during pregnancy put you at a higher risk for gum disease. Poor dental health has been associated with early delivery, gestational diabetes, intrauterine growth restriction, and preeclampsia.

If you’re expecting, you might be concerned about several dental issues: which dental procedures are safe for your baby, when and how often you should see the dentist, and what you can do to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Is Dental Care Safe during Pregnancy?

Yes, it’s not only safe to visit your dentist during pregnancy, it’s also recommended. Tooth decay can negatively impact both you and your baby. Changes in your hormones can put you at a higher risk for gingivitis. You might even consider extra cleanings during your pregnancy to protect your gums against gum disease.

When you visit your dentist, let him or her know what stage you are at in the pregnancy, as well as any medications you may be taking. Some prefer not to visit the dentist during the first trimester because this is the most vulnerable state of the pregnancy. It’s typically best to schedule dental procedures during your second trimester because it will be too uncomfortable to sit in the chair during the last months of the pregnancy.

Dentists try to avoid treatments too late in the third trimester, out of fear that having you lie on your back for too long could induce labour. If you need any dental procedures during your third trimester, they are typically delayed until after the delivery.

Fillings and x-rays are safe during pregnancy. Your dentist will make sure you are adequately covered during the x-ray to prevent any risk to the child. X-rays are often necessary to plan accurately dental procedures.

Pregnancy and Your Dental Health

The primary reasons for dental problems during pregnancy are the result of hormone changes and morning sickness.

Hormone changes make your gums more prone to gingivitis because they cause more bacteria to form in your mouth. Estrogen and progesterone loosen bones and ligaments, and this may make your teeth feel looser. That being said, it is definitely not normal to have teeth move or fall out. Those issues are usually a sign of a previous dental condition.

One in two women develops gingivitis during pregnancy. This condition should go away after childbirth. You might notice that your gums are red, swollen, sore or prone to bleeding. Keep up with your regular brushing and flossing routines and talk to your dentist for more specific advice.

Frequently vomiting from morning sickness wears out the enamel of your teeth. If you’re having problems with morning sickness, there are measures you can take to protect your teeth against acid.

Mix a teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of water to make a rinse solution. Rinse and spit after vomiting, then wait thirty minutes before brushing. Brushing your teeth immediately after vomiting can worsen the wear on the enamel of your teeth.

Things You Can Do to Keep a Healthy Mouth

There are a few things you can do to protect your mouth during pregnancy. We’ve gathered the following list to help you fight decay and gum disease while encouraging your child’s development.

  • Keep up your regular routines of brushing and flossing. If you haven’t been brushing twice a day and flossing once, now is the time to start. Flossing is perhaps the most important measure in fighting against gum disease.
    Continue visiting your dentist for regular cleanings and check-ups.
  • If you’re having trouble brushing because of morning sickness, try changing your routine. Consider buying a smaller toothbrush or using different toothpaste. Brush slowly if it is causing you to gag.
  • Limit sugar. Sugar is hard on your teeth because it turns to acid and then plaque. This puts you at a higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
    Choose healthy snacks that are low in sugar. Yogurt, cheese, raw fruits and vegetables are all great choices.
  • Drink water and low-fat milk instead of soda or sugary beverages. This will keep you hydrated without the negative effects of sugar.
  • Keep a healthy, nutrient-rich diet to help your child’s development. Your baby’s teeth develop during the third and sixth months of pregnancy. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamins A, C and D, calcium, protein, phosphorus, and folic acid.

Cavities (or caries) are a form of tooth decay. Bacteria in your mouth ferment carbohydrates, breaking down the enamel in your teeth. Bacteria live inside the plaque, which is why your teeth are more susceptible to decay if you have poor dental hygiene.

Cavities have no symptoms in their earliest stages. This is because cavities form beneath the surface of your teeth. As the decay progresses, you will start to have symptoms such as pain and obvious discoloration.

The best way to catch cavities is to make regular trips to the dentist. Your dentist will be able to find decay with radiographs while the cavity is still in its earliest stages. Regular cleanings can also reduce the amount of tartar and plaque on your teeth, decreasing your risk of cavities.

Cavities cannot be reversed, but their progress can sometimes be slowed or stopped with good dental hygiene. If you do not visit your dentist, you may only notice cavities when they have progressed to a more serious stage and present symptoms.

Types of Cavities

There are three main groups of cavities: coronal, root, and recurrent cavities.
Coronal cavities form in the pits of your teeth, or in between teeth—areas affected by chewing. This is the most common type of cavity.

Root cavities
can form when your gums have receded and are exposing the sensitive roots, which are not protected by hard enamel. These cavities are more common among older people.

Recurrent cavities
occur at the site of a previous filling or crown. A renovated tooth tends to accumulate plaque, making the area more vulnerable to decay.

Signs of Cavities

If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with the dentist right away. Cavities do not fix themselves, and untreated tooth decay becomes worse the longer it goes untreated.

  1. Staining. Your tooth may have white, brown, or black spots. While sometimes these are just stains, cavities tend to be soft and sticky. Cavities may cause your entire tooth to discolour.
  2. Depressions in your tooth. You may be able to see holes or pits in your teeth.
  3. Toothaches. Your tooth may hurt suddenly without cause.
  4. Tooth sensitivity. You may feel sharp, sudden pain when consuming something hot, cold, sweet or acidic.
  5. Pain when biting. You might feel pain when biting down on something hard or crunchy.
  6. Bad taste or breath. When bacteria forms in the cavity in your tooth, you may develop bad breath or have a metallic taste in your mouth.
  7. Bleeding or swollen gums. Deeper cavities damage the nerve in your tooth and may cause infection. This irritates your gums, resulting in swelling or bleeding while brushing your teeth.
  8. Sensitivity to pressure. You may feel a dull or sharp pain in your tooth resulting from pressure changes, something you are likely to notice while flying. This is because air pressure changes can affect the nerve of an infected tooth.

Dangers of Untreated Cavities

An untreated cavity can go from being a minor problem to a dental emergency. Tooth decay continues to move deeper into your tooth, from the enamel to the dentin, which is a softer material full of tubules that allow acids and sugars into the nerve-filled pulp.

When tooth decay reaches the pulp, bacteria cause it to expand, pressing on nerves. If tooth pulp becomes infected, it can form an abscess, which is a pocket of pus at the root of the tooth. This infects the tooth and may even spread to your jaw.

Tooth decay can progress beyond what a filling can fix. An untreated cavity may eventually need a root canal (the removal of pulp inside the tooth) or even removal of the tooth. This is why you should see your dentist immediately when you notice symptoms of a cavity—to avoid costly and potentially invasive repairs.

Preventing Against Cavities

Cavities are the second most common health disorder among adults and the first among children. While they are common, there are some steps you can follow to decrease your risks.

Practice good dental hygiene.
Brushing twice a day and flossing once can help reduce plaque on your teeth, which is the starting point for cavities.

See your dentist regularly.
Your dentist can catch cavities before symptoms appear. Though you can’t do anything to reverse a cavity, you can slow down tooth decay by improving dental hygiene. Your dentist will also be able to remove tartar from your teeth, something you cannot do by yourself at home.

Watch what you eat.
Sticky foods or foods that are high in sugar (or carbohydrates) put a lot of wear on your teeth. This includes potato chips, hard candy, honey, sugar, dry cereal, dried fruits, cookies, cake, and soda.

Limit sugary drinks and snacks.
If you snack or sip on sweet beverages throughout the day, you constantly expose your teeth to acids that break down the enamel on your teeth. Consider replacing snacks with healthier choices and taking your coffee without sugar. Water and low-fat milk are a great way to stay hydrated without the sugar of juice or sports drinks.

You might be worried if you notice that your child’s shining white teeth have become yellow or discolored. While many adults whiten their teeth with over-the-counter whitening products, this form of treatment is not recommended for young mouths.

We’ll go over some of the unique characteristics of baby teeth, why whitening treatments could be harmful, and what you can do to help keep your child’s teeth clean.

Baby Teeth versus Adult Teeth

Baby teeth have thinner, whiter enamel than adult teeth. They appear brighter because they are more calcified. As your child’s adult teeth grow in, they will appear more yellow than his or her baby teeth. Unusual discoloration can be caused by injuries, decay, or dietary choices. If you’re frustrated about the color of your child’s teeth, over-the-counter whitening treatments are not a solution.

How Whitening Works

Whitening treatments use hydrogen peroxide to work away stains on your teeth. The user instructions will tell you how long to leave on whitening trays, usually between 15 and 60 minutes. Bleaches used in whitening treatments can wear down the enamel of your teeth, exposing the sensitive layer of dentin underneath. This causes tooth sensitivity (pain caused by hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods or beverages), which usually goes away after a while, as long as you are not continually overusing whitening products.

Why Whitening Products are Not Recommended for Children

There is no sufficient research to prove that whitening treatments are not harmful to children under the age of 15. Most companies like Crest do not recommend their whitening products for children less than 12 years old.
When using at-home whitening products, you must be sure to follow the instructions carefully. Children are not always able to understand the risks of leaving on whitening trays in for too long, which will damage tooth enamel and irritate gums.

Children are also more likely to swallow when using dental products, which can be very hazardous when using whitening chemicals. If you insist on having your child’s teeth whitened, it’s best to discuss your options with your dentist, considering clinical treatment if he or she recommends it.

Causes of Dark or Discolored Baby Teeth

Teeth can become darkened or discolored from diet, decay, or injury. If you notice that your child’s tooth is dark or has white spots, you should have the dentist check to see if the tooth is healthy.

Dark teeth are often caused by bleeding inside the tooth. This is usually caused by an injury while playing sports or hitting the tooth on a hard surface. In this case, you should bring your child to the dentist’s office to assess the injury.

Vitamins and medication can discolor your child’s teeth if they are high in iron. If you have taken the antibiotic tetracycline, either during pregnancy or breastfeeding, it may have affected the color of your child’s teeth.
Weak enamel is a genetic condition that makes teeth appear darker.

Fluorosis is a condition resulting from overconsumption of fluoride. You may notice white lines or streaks on your child’s teeth if you have been giving him or her formula from powder or a liquid concentrate mixed with fluoridated water.

Diet has a considerable impact on the color of your child’s teeth. If your child drinks a lot of sugary beverages or eats artificially-colored foods, you may notice that his or her teeth appear more yellow.

Solutions for Whiter Teeth

Using proper dental hygiene and maintaining a healthy diet are the best ways to keep teeth bright and shiny. Encourage your child to get into the routine of brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. Diet has a significant impact on the color of his or her teeth, so try to avoid dark-colored beverages like soda and certain juices.

Some natural foods with dark pigments may also cause stains, such as beets, grapes, blackberries, raspberries, or tomato sauce. You might consider limiting these foods if you’re trying to fight against stains.

With very young children, you start brushing right away. As soon as your child’s first tooth has grown in, you should brush his or her tooth with an infant toothbrush, using a small bit of toothpaste no bigger than a grain of rice. You should also wipe your child’s gums with a soft cloth after feedings. This will limit decay, keeping your child’s teeth healthy from the start.

Older children might be able to consider whitening treatments after all of their adult teeth have grown in. This treatment is not recommended for those under 15 years of age. Make sure that your child knows the risks of whitening treatments and that he or she follows the instructions properly.

If you have tooth sensitivity, you’ll experience pain when biting down on hard foods or consuming something hot, cold, sweet or acidic. Often the pain feels sudden and sharp. Tooth sensitivity can make eating and drinking a difficult and fearful task.

There are many causes of tooth sensitivity. In its essence, tooth pain occurs when a softer material called dentin transmits temperature or acidity to nerves in the pulp of your tooth.

Normally, dentin is protected by a harder layer of enamel, which may become weakened or damaged. Dentin also gets exposed when your gums have receded, as the roots of your teeth lack enamel. The reasons your teeth are sensitive may dictate which treatments are most effective for you.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Erosion of enamel on your teeth. If you have a highly acidic diet, the enamel on your teeth will erode more quickly. Bleaches used in whitening treatments also thin enamel. Usually, sensitivity caused by whitening treatments is temporary. Your dentist will probably recommend that you lay off of them for a while.

You might also wear down enamel if you grind or clench your teeth. If you grind your teeth during sleep, you should consider wearing a mouth guard at night. Finding a solution to your stress might also help the situation.
Recent dental treatments. Your teeth may become sensitive after a filling, crown, or any other restorative treatment. Sometimes, you might need a bite adjustment, but continued sensitivity could be a sign that you need a root canal. Check back with your dentist if the pain doesn’t go away after four to eight weeks.

Gum recession. Gum recession may occur due to aging, but the culprit is usually gum disease. As plaque and tartar build-up along your teeth, your gums start to recede, exposing sensitive roots. This usually results from poor dental hygiene, but it may be further exacerbated by smoking, as well as chronic illnesses and changes in hormones (often during pregnancy).
Cracked or damaged teeth. If your tooth is cracked, chewing will cause different pieces to move, exposing the pulp, which is full of nerves and blood vessels. If a crack goes untreated, the pulp may eventually become infected, which can spread to deeper tissues in your mouth, even reaching the bone underneath.

Deep cavities can also be a cause for sensitivity. Cavities do not usually cause pain, so if you have a toothache, you should see your dentist right away. Decay may have reached deeper parts of your tooth, signaling it is now approaching an infectious state.

Brushing too hard. If you’re brushing too hard, you can wear down the enamel of your teeth and cause damage to your gums. It’s best to use a soft-bristled brush. Move your brush in a circular motion, rather than moving it quickly back and forth.

Clinical Treatments for Tooth Sensitivity

If you’re experiencing a lot of pain while eating or drinking, you should speak to your dentist. Depending on the cause of the sensitivity, your dentist may advise one of the following procedures.

Gum grafts. Gum grafts can help resolve tooth sensitivity when roots are exposed by receding gums. A graft will be taken from tissue located on the roof of a patient’s mouth and then used to cover exposed roots. This treatment typically works to solve damage from severe gum disease.

Root canal. If your tooth has been damaged beyond what a filling can repair, your dentist may suggest a root canal. The dentist removes the pulp from your tooth, getting rid of nerve endings, which are no longer necessary once the tooth has grown in. While these nerves typically give you the sensation of hot and cold, they can be compromised to save the tooth.

Dental bonding. The dentist applies a special resin to your teeth to cover up sensitive areas. The process of bonding is similar to a crown but requires only one visit and minimal removal of material from the tooth. The downside to bonding is that it will stain and wear down over time, typically lasting four to eight years.

Fluoride treatments. Your dentist can apply a fluoride gel to sensitive areas of your tooth, which helps strengthen the enamel and also ease the pain. In some cases, your dentist may prescribe fluoride trays so that you can continue the treatment at home.

Treating Tooth Sensitivity at Home

Cut down on acidic foods and beverages. Carbonated drinks, wine, and citrus fruits contain a lot of acids. Limit acid in your diet to protect weakened tooth enamel.

Use desensitizing fluoridated toothpaste. Certain kinds of toothpaste can help with tooth sensitivity. Ask your dentist for a brand he or she recommends. Before you go to sleep, put a little bit of toothpaste on your exposed roots.

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, and don’t go too hard on the brushing. Try more gentle, circular motions when brushing your teeth.
Wear a mouth guard at night. This can keep you from grinding your teeth while you sleep.

Your third molars are called wisdom teeth because they are the last set of teeth to grow in, typically between 17 and 21 years of age. Researchers believe that wisdom teeth may have been necessary earlier in our time, when we consumed harder, uncooked foods like nuts and roots. Nowadays, they are vestigial structures, similar to the appendix.

Some people have no wisdom teeth; others have all four. Wisdom teeth don’t necessarily cause problems unless they are impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth grow at an angle that could affect the alignment of your existing teeth. They may also cause damage to your jaw or become infected after erupting only partially.

Dentists can monitor and predict the motion of your wisdom teeth through oral x-rays. However, there are some symptoms you may notice when your wisdom teeth are starting to erupt (and impact).

Types of Wisdom Teeth Impaction

There are four different types of wisdom teeth impaction. These include vertical, mesial, distal, and horizontal impaction.

  • Vertical impaction: Vertical impaction does not always require removal. The third molar is mostly vertical but maybe at a slight angle. These teeth have a high chance of erupting without any problem. Vertically impacted wisdom teeth may have to be removed if they put too much pressure on your jaw or back molars.
  • Mesial impaction: With mesial impaction, the tooth is aimed towards the front of your mouth. Wisdom teeth undergoing mesial impaction do not always need to be removed, but they may cause problems if they push on your second molar. Mesial impactions have a higher risk of becoming infected because they only partially erupt and are therefore more difficult to clean.
  • Distal impaction: Distal impaction means that your third molar is angled towards the back of your mouth. These wisdom teeth may not need to be removed unless they start to push into the bone in the back of your mouth, in which case they will be unable to erupt. Your dentist may monitor your wisdom teeth for a year or two before deciding on their removal.
  • Horizontal impaction: Horizontal impaction is perhaps the most serious case of impacted wisdom teeth. The third molar is directed towards your second molar on a horizontal plane and will not erupt to the surface. Horizontally impacted wisdom teeth can cause considerable damage to your other teeth. The procedure to remove them is more complicated and may require removing some bone.

How to Tell If Your Wisdom Teeth Are Impacted

If your wisdom teeth are impacted, you may notice some of the following symptoms.

  • Your gums may be red, painful, and swollen.
  • You may notice bleeding.
  • Your jaw may be painful and swollen.
  • It may be difficult to open and close your mouth.
  • Glands in your neck and shoulders may be swollen.
  • You may experience intense pain in the back of your mouth.
  • You might have an unpleasant taste or odor in your mouth, which is the result of bacteria that forms during impaction. The taste and odor may be caused by infection or decay in the tooth.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should contact a dentist or oral surgeon. The only way for your dentist to know for sure if your wisdom teeth are impacted is to take an X-ray of your mouth. He or she will be able to identify which direction your wisdom teeth are moving and whether or not they should be extracted.

Wisdom teeth removal is a short procedure lasting between 30 to 60 minutes. Depending on the severity of the impaction, sometimes only a local anesthetic is necessary. Otherwise, an IV sedative or general anesthesia may be necessary.

Some impactions do not need to be removed. Your dentist may also wait to see if these teeth are causing any problems before deciding to remove them.
You should monitor partially-erupted teeth closely and be careful to use proper oral hygiene. Take care to brush in the back of your mouth, where food particles can easily collect and create an infection. Partially-erupted teeth have a high risk of infection because they are difficult to clean.

Dangers of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Impacted wisdom teeth can create serious problems by damaging your jaw or other teeth. Impacted teeth underneath your gums can form cysts, which may (in rare cases) lead to tumors or cause damage to nerves in your jaw.

If your wisdom teeth push into your existing teeth, they may become misaligned, and you will need orthodontic work to straighten them.
Partially erupted teeth are susceptible to decay and gum disease, such as pericoronitis (the condition in which the gum tissue around your wisdom tooth becomes swollen and infected).