My Blog

Posts for: August, 2013

By Drake Tollefson DDS
August 29, 2013
Category: Oral Health
HelpingChildrenEstablishOralHealthcareHabits

A habit can be defined as a recurrent, mostly unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition. However, there is much more to a habit than meets the eye. A major influence on children's positive behaviors and habits are those in their environment, namely parents, siblings and peers.

Luckily, proper oral hygiene is actually one of the easier habits to instill in children. Beginning when children are toddlers and continuing into their teenage years, you can influence them to institute lifetime oral healthcare habits.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Toddlers:

  • Teach your Children How to Brush Properly. Starting at age two, when there are more teeth in your child's mouth, you should help your child establish a brushing routine. For toddlers, use a child's size soft toothbrush with water and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Children should be helped with brushing until at least age the age of six, at which point they will have developed enough dexterity.
  • Encourage your Children to Stop Sucking Thumbs and Pacifiers by Age Three. Most children drop this habit on their own between the ages of two and four. However, problems can occur when sucking habits are allowed to go on too long, including jaw development issues and buck teeth. If you are having problems helping your child to modify his or her sucking habits, we are happy to offer you some advice and creative strategies.
  • Set an Example of Healthy Eating Habits. A diet rich in sugar encourages the growth of acidogenic (acid-producing) bacteria, which cause tooth decay. Always choose water over sugary beverages, and encourage your children to do the same. When it comes to sweets, avoid sugary snacks between meals, and instead, snack on better options like fruits, vegetables and wheat crackers. Remember, if your children see you making these healthy decisions from an early age, they are likely to mimic your behaviors.

Pre-Teens and Teenagers:

  • Get your Children Professional Custom-Fitted Mouthguards. These devices not only protect your children's teeth, but also the jawbones, jaw joints and soft tissues of the lip, cheeks, gums and tongue. A mouthguard made specifically for your child using a model of his or her teeth offers greater protection than an over-the-counter model.
  • Warn your Teens about Oral Piercings. Tongue piercing and lip bolts create many risks for teeth and the tissues that surround them. Resulting tooth problems include chipping, sensitivity, and pain. Periodontal problems include gum recession, inflammation, infection, and bone loss. Make sure that your teen is aware of these risks.

If you would like more information about oral healthcare for your children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How to Help your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”


By Drake Tollefson DDS
August 22, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease   genetics  
GeneticsandyourGums

It is sometimes hard to believe all of the features and characteristics that we inherit from our parents. Whether you're tall, short, blue-eyed or blonde, you can usually attribute some of these features to your mother and father. Of course, the downside of genetics is that diseases and disorders are also linked to genes.

Well, you can add gum tissue to that list as well! Genetics actually determines whether you have what we call “thin” or “thick” gum tissue. How does this work? Well, the type of gum tissue you have relies heavily on the shape of your tooth, which indeed is genetically-coded. If you have a triangular tooth shape, you'll likely have thin gums. If you have a squarer tooth shape, you'll usually have thick gums.

So, what can you expect from each tissue type?

If you have a thin gum tissue type, you are more likely to have gum recession. Watch out for the following signs of gum recession:

  • Sensitivity to hot or cold, even without the presence of dental decay
  • If you have crowns on your teeth, you may see a dark gray line at the gum line from the metal casting beneath the crown
  • Small dark triangular spaces between teeth

On the other hand, if you have a thicker tissue type, your gums are more vulnerable to dental disease through a condition called “pocketing.” This happens when bacterial plaque causes your tissue to become inflamed, lose its attachment to the teeth and develop a pocket. Pocketing can result in bone loss, and, in worst-case scenarios, tooth loss.

It's important to note that while we use these terms to categorize different tissue types for treatment decisions, your tissue may also fall somewhere in between the two varieties.

So, how can you prevent gum disease? Daily oral hygiene is the best way to ensure proper care of your gums, no matter what type you have. Be sure to brush twice daily (use a soft toothbrush) and floss regularly at night. Floss gently until you hear a squeak, but watch out for your gum line. And of course, continue to visit us two times a year, so that we can assess whether you are in danger of developing gum disease.

If you would like more information about genetics and gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Genetics and Gum Tissue Types.”


By Drake Tollefson DDS
August 14, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease  
PreventionistheKeyintheFightAgainstPeriodontalDisease

Billions of bacteria live in each of our mouths, sharing a common environment with teeth and soft tissues. Most of the time, they coexist in symbiotic balance. But sometimes that balance becomes disrupted, leading to a destructive condition known as periodontal disease.

From the Latin peri (“around”) and the Greek odont (“tooth”), periodontal refers to the tissues that are around the teeth. When they become diseased, it's a serious matter; and not just because of potential tooth loss — there is evidence that periodontal disease has links to cardiovascular disease and, for pregnant women, low birth weights in pre-term babies.

There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing periodontal disease, like smoking, poor nutrition, and your systemic health. The biggest factor, however, is increased bacterial plaque due to poor oral hygiene practices.

Periodontal disease is progressive. As unhealthy bacteria levels increase, the bacteria eventually cause bone loss, the gums separate from the teeth and create what is referred to as periodontal pockets. As the pockets deepen around the teeth, plaque and tartar become extremely difficult to remove, even if you resume a proper hygiene routine. At this stage, treating the disease will require a different approach. And if left untreated, the teeth will most likely continue to lose bone and eventually be lost.

Through a dental exam, we can determine the presence and extent of the disease and recommend a treatment strategy. Besides lifestyle changes and better hygiene habits, this strategy might also include treatment with antibiotics, a thorough mechanical cleaning to remove tartar and plaque, surgical techniques to remove infected tissue, or occlusal bite therapy.

Above all, prevention is the key. Through proper dental hygiene and regular dental exams and cleanings, stopping periodontal disease from beginning in the first place is your best defense.

If you would like more information on the treatment of periodontal disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Understanding Gum Disease.”


ProtectYourChildAthleteFromInjuryWithaCustom-FittedMouthguard

Youth sports can be a positive life experience for your child or teenager. But there's also a risk of injury in many sporting activities, including to the teeth and mouth. An injury to the mouth, especially for a child or young adolescent whose teeth are still developing, can have a significant negative impact on their oral health.

When it comes to teeth or mouth injuries, the best preventive measure is for your child to wear an athletic mouthguard, especially for contact sports like football, hockey or soccer. But be warned: not all mouthguards are alike — and neither is their level of protection.

Mouthguards can be classified into three types. The first is known as “stock,” which is the least expensive and offers the least level of protection. They usually are available only in limited sizes (small, medium, large, etc.) and cannot be custom-fitted for the individual. This significantly lowers their protective ability, and thus we do not recommend these to our patients.

The next type is referred to as “boil and bite.” These mouthguards are made of a material called thermoplastic, which becomes pliable when heated. When first purchased, the guard is placed in boiling water until soft; the individual can then place them in the mouth and bite down or press the guard into the teeth until it hardens and forms to their palates. Although this type offers a better fit and more protection than stock mouthguards, it isn't the highest level of protection available.

That distinction goes to the last type — a custom mouthguard made by a dentist. Although the most expensive of the three, it offers the best fit and the highest level of protection. A well-made custom mouthguard is tear-resistant, fits comfortably, is easy to clean and doesn't restrict speaking and breathing. We recommend this guard as your best alternative for protecting your child athlete from tooth and mouth damage.

If you would like more information on the use of athletic mouthguards for young athletes, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Mouthguards.”