Infant and Toddler Oral Health Basics

If you are the parent of a baby or toddler and your family has successfully made it through the dreaded teething stage, you may be wondering what the next step is in terms of your child’s oral hygiene and care. Dental professionals agree that the sooner a child can see a dentist, the better. This is particularly true when it comes to the prevention of disease. Periodontal disease and many other dental problems that commonly affect children are more likely to occur in children who do not receive regular dental care and evaluations.

If you’re thinking it’s not that big of a deal because your child will lose those baby teeth anyway, keep in mind that these issues can lead to a broad range of more significant problems down the line, including nutritional problems from trouble eating and drinking, and problems with speech development and self-esteem.

When to Have Your Child Evaluated by the Dentist

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), your infant or toddler should have an oral evaluation performed within six months of the appearance of his or her first tooth. Because there’s so much variability among children as to when that first tooth pops out, however, AAPD recommends visiting a dentist for an evaluation before the child’s first birthday even if that first tooth has yet to appear.

Additional Important Considerations

While seeing a dentist early on improves your child’s chances of optimal oral health, there are several other things you can do in the comfort of your own home. AAPD recommends that you avoid putting your child to sleep with a bottle of milk or juice, and don’t let them sip on a bottle with those things in it throughout the day either. Both actions enhance your child’s chance of tooth decay. If your child has trouble falling asleep without a bottle, make sure it contains only water, and try and take it away entirely before your child hits the one-year mark.

When it comes to your child’s oral health, prevention is paramount. Taking the aforementioned tips and seeing a dentist early on are the best ways to give your children healthy teeth and gums.

How Does Mouthwash Work?

You have probably heard that mouthwash is a valuable addition to any dental hygiene routine, but you may not understand why. Simply swishing a tingly liquid around in your mouth may not seem like a big deal, but new research published in 2013 shows that patients who use an effective mouth rinse along with their tooth-brushing routine are able to reduce their gingivitis and plaque significantly. Here is a simple explanation of how mouthwash works.

Toothbrush Reach is Limited

Although toothbrushes are extremely helpful for removing plaque and bacteria from the visible surfaces of the teeth, they are not able to get into the cracks and crannies where bacteria love to grow and flourish. Mouthwash, on the other hand, is able to reach almost 100 percent of the various surfaces in the mouth, which makes it invaluable (along with floss) for cleaning hard-to-reach areas.

Antiseptic Properties

Some types of mouthwash are formulated to have anti-plaque and antiseptic properties. This means that individuals who rinse with antiseptic mouthwashes may be able to kill a significant portion of the bacterial plaque found within the mouth. When used in conjunction with regular brushing and flossing, mouthwash can offer the following benefits:

  • Reduced tooth decay
  • Decreased instances of bad breath
  • Reduced chance of developing gingivitis

How Mouthwash is Used

Mouthwash is most effective when it is forcefully swished around the mouth. This action helps the mouthwash to reach the gaps between the teeth and remove food particles and bacteria from those areas. Individuals who have bad breath are also encouraged to gargle with mouthwash because the bacteria that cause bad breath often reside in the back of the tongue and throat.

It is important not to swallow mouthwash, though, since it may contain alcohol and other ingredients that are not safe for ingestion. In order to discourage swallowing, it is recommended that you only put a pre-measured amount of mouthwash in your mouth at a given time.

Improve Your Dental Health with Mouthwash

If you want to add to your current dental regimen and improve your dental health even more, purchase high-quality mouthwash and use it on a regular basis. 

Diabetes: Your Mouth Matters

Diabetes: Your Mouth Matters

Maintaining good oral health and seeing a dentist regularly can reduce the risk of developing or exacerbating diabetes

You know that things like diet and exercise can impact your health, but did you know that what happens in your mouth can also have a significant effect on your whole body, including your risk of developing or exacerbating conditions like diabetes?

Diabetes is quickly becoming one of the largest health crises in America. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 29.1 million Americans had diabetes in 2012, nearly 10 percent of the population. Additionally, the ADA estimates that there are 86 million Americans with pre-diabetes. The annual cost of this disease is also staggering—$245 billion per year in 2012, a 41 percent increase over just a five-year span. About $176 million of that is attributed to direct medical costs, with another $69 million in reduced productivity.

Diabetes & Oral Health – A Two-Way Street

Diabetes is a chronic condition, requiring patients to maintain discipline and strict self-management to prevent complications. Care providers often prescribe diet and exercise changes that can help a patient manage diabetes, and now many are also adding proper oral health care to that list as well.

Many researchers have examined whether a lack of good oral health care puts a person at higher risk for developing diabetes, or whether having diabetes contributes to poor oral health. As it turns out, it goes both ways—individuals with diabetes are more prone to develop periodontal disease, and the existence of periodontal disease can also cause problems in managing diabetes.

The Role of Inflammation

Inflammation is our body’s natural response to harmful pathogens or outside stimuli. When our body senses something harmful, it summons our vascular and immune system to the area, releasing toxins through the blood to remove the harmful pathogens, which allows the body to begin healing. This is known as acute inflammation.

When inflammation persists over a long period of time it is called chronic inflammation. The cells sent to fight inflammation are powerful defenders of the body, but they also release toxins (commonly referred to as cytokines) that can accumulate and become harmful to the body. Research has shown that high levels of these toxins reduce the body’s response to insulin and increase the risk of developing diabetes. Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease, and the most common form is gingivitis. In fact, as much as 50 percent of the U.S. population suffers from gum disease and, like any inflammatory condition, this causes an increase in cytokines, which is linked to insulin resistance and other risk factors for diabetes and coronary heart disease.

For patients who already have diabetes, periodontal diseases make it harder for the body to maintain metabolic control, which increases the risk of complications, according to research studies.

Mitigating Risk with Proper Oral Care

Poor oral health makes it more difficult to control glucose levels, which can lead to major complications for people with diabetes. Diseases like gingivitis can cause dry mouth and decreased salivary flow, creating favorable conditions for bacteria. The existence of bacteria results in periodontal disease, and the cycle of inflammation and the body’s response ensues, along with all its harmful effects.

But there are ways to mitigate the risk of chronic inflammation. One of the best ways is to visit your dentist regularly.

“If you visit the same dentist regularly at the recommended six-month intervals, he or she can identify subtle changes that may indicate a potential problem,” said Dr. Kenneth King, Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and Patient Care at Roseman University College of Dental Medicine in South Jordan, Utah.

“Things like gingivitis, recession of the gums, tender tissues, bone loss, calculus build-up, and increased number of cavities can all be indicators of a larger systemic problem,” said King. But since the changes are subtle, a dentist may have a difficult time diagnosing it for someone who comes infrequently for check-ups, or someone who gets a new dentist every couple of years. “Seeing the same dentist at regular intervals over a number of years is ideal, so he or she knows your history and can identify the more subtle indicators.”

If you already have diabetes, seeing a dentist regularly is equally important. A study by Drs. David Mosen, Daniel Pihlstrom and John Snyder published in the January 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association showed that receipt of regular dental care reduces diabetes-specific medical care utilization. Specifically, study participants (all of whom had diabetes) who saw a dentist at least twice a year over a three-year period had better glycemic control, or the ability to keep blood sugar at a safe level. Regular-dental-care patients were also less likely to have diabetes-related hospital and emergency department admissions.

As with any condition, it is important to meet regularly with your healthcare provider to ensure that you are doing what you can to manage the disease. In the case of diabetes, be sure to schedule regular dental visits as well. Your mouth, and your body, will thank you.

Why Periodontal Health Is Important When Expecting

Pregnancy is an exciting time full of expectations and preparations for a new little one. It is also a time when your body goes through countless changes, from top to bottom. Most mothers-to-be notice the most obvious changes, ranging from weight gain to thicker hair. What they may not realize is that the shifts in hormones caused by pregnancy can impact the health of their mouths. In fact, many women are shocked when their dentist finds multiple cavities following the birth of their child. Good periodontal health is essential while pregnant, both for the health of the mother as well as the baby.

Greater Risk for Pre-Term Birth

According to research, periodontal disease can cause infections, which can increase the levels of biological fluids that induce labor. Neglecting to adequately care for your teeth and gums while you are pregnant can raise your risk of delivering your baby before the 37-week mark. Preterm delivery can be dangerous for babies, as they may not yet be fully developed. These low-birth-weight babies are at risk for developmental delays and may even spend significant time in a neonatal intensive care unit following their entry into the world.

The Impact of Periodontal Disease

Nearly every pregnant woman deals with sore, swollen and bleeding gums. Commonly known as “pregnancy gingivitis,” proper oral hygiene is necessary if you want to prevent the issue from getting worse. Once gingivitis progresses into periodontal disease, you can become susceptible to other health concerns, including the following:

  • Tooth loss
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes

When brushing your teeth, make sure to focus your efforts around the gum line in order to wash away plaque and bacterial build up. Flossing daily should be part of your routine as well.

The female body sacrifices many nutrients as it works to grow a tiny human, which can leave your mouth without the protection against bacteria that it needs. Regular dental checkups and cleanings can keep you on the right path as you get ready to welcome a new life.