Pediatric Dental Appointments - What You Should Know; What You Shouldn't Worry About

When should your child visit a dentist?

As a dental office our goal is to be at the center of the dental health community, so it concerns us when we hear horror stories about our young people and poor dental health.

The latest figures on tooth decay in our children are very worrying. Statistics show that nearly 10 children in your child’s elementary class could already have developed problem teeth.  The most extreme cases of tooth decay at a young age, are seen when children need to have all of their baby teeth removed by a dentist.  Even more rare are cases where older children have suffered decay of adult teeth and needed to have them removed.

The good news is that it is easy to prevent problems in the teeth of our children.  This means that, although the statistics presented are scary, the means of avoiding becoming a statistic are not difficult if you maintain your dental checkups.

Some preventative advice first

Before your child’s appointment with your Landmark Smiles of Scottsdale Arizona pediatric dentist, you need to start by getting them into good habits from the moment they have teeth.  This is probably all advice that you have heard before – but it is worth repeating:

-          show them how to brush in circles in both their front and back of their teeth, pushing dirt up and off the teeth – brushing your teeth at the same time as a young child is a great way to act as a role-model and will show them how to do it properly!

-          encourage them to brush their teeth for two minutes, twice a day – maybe set a clock or put on a song to brush to that is two minutes long.  It is always great to dance and brush!

-          cut down on sugary treats – especially sugary drinks.  It is great to give our children something that they will love – but, in small amounts, and encourage them to brush afterwards.

-          encourage a balanced diet – calcium is important for strong, well developed teeth – but, an overall healthy body will lead to a wonderfully healthy smile.

-          praise them for the effort that they put into their smile, and tell them how wonderful their teeth look!

If you start these habits with your toddler, as they grow up, they will see it as an essential part of their day and their routine.

Your child and the dentist

So, when would we like to see your little person and their teeth?  Well, it is likely a lot earlier than you think.  Most parents begin bringing their children to us when they start school.  The best dentist in Scottsdale, Arizona, Dr. Huntsman, will tell you that this is about two years too late.  If your child has started to transition to a cup and is snacking on solids, then they should be coming to see us at our Scottsdale dental office.  This means most young people should come see us well before their second birthday, which is surprising to most parents.

Are you worried that this is too young to be seen by the dentist? Are you concerned that they would never sit still for the exam?

Well, young children are resilient and follow their parents’ lead.  So, if you walk into our Scottsdale dental office happy and carefree, this is how your little person will view the experience, too.  It is much harder once the child is in pain, or if the child has started to hear stories about the dentist.  This means if you start younger it is actually easier to get child to like coming to see us – well – at least not worry about coming to see us, at least. Read more about our new patient experience here.

Don’t worry about them sitting still, either.  At your Scottsdale premier dental office, Landmark Smiles, we can work successfully to get the full exam completed in a short time.  We won’t be taking x-rays, which require the child to sit really still, until your child is between the age of 4 and 6.

There is no need to be worried

We are always worried when horror stories hit the news about the health of our children’s teeth. We take the smiles of our children that visit us at Landmark Smiles very seriously.

However, by coming to see us early, we can prevent most of the problems that children might face as they grow older.  We can help them feel relaxed in our comfortable rooms.  We can use resin if necessary to protect molar prone teeth.  We can also help with orthodontics if teeth come through crooked. 

The regular 6 to 12 month check-up from this early age is the only intervention needed to prevent lifelong problems with teeth. Schedule with the premier staff at Landmark Smiles of Scottsdale, Arizona today to get your child’s teeth shining bright and staying health!

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Did You Know Green Tea May Boost Dental Health?

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Looking for a caffeine boost? Consider swapping out your daily coffee for a cup of green tea. The brewed drink may improve your oral health.

Regularly drinking green tea can protect against cavitiesgum disease and bad breath, according to a 2016 study that compiled research on the beverage’s oral health effects. The study indicated that green tea may reduce oral bacteria which, in turn, can promote the health of teeth and gums.

What’s more, drinking green tea may lower your chance of developing oral cancer. Researchers also noted a significantly lower risk of oral cancer among individuals who drank green tea.

But before you load up on green tea, don’t forget to skip the sweeteners. Sugar and honey still promote cavities, even when you drink them with green tea.

Are You Getting Enough Calcium?

Calcium is an essential mineral for strong teeth and bones. For babies and children, it’s vital to help incoming teeth develop properly. And for teenagers and adults, it can help prevent cavities and osteoporosis.

Where to find calcium

Rich sources of calcium include milk and other dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese and buttermilk. Looking for other ways to get calcium? If you’re lactose intolerant, vegan or allergic to milk, you may want to consider these calcium-rich alternatives:

  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Tofu
  • Calcium-fortified soy milk
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice
  • Calcium-fortified breads and cereals

If you eat meat, you may also want to stock up on canned salmon or sardines, which contain high levels of calcium from the fishes’ bones.

Tips to boost your intake

Worried you or kids aren’t getting enough calcium? Try these strategies.

  • Add dairy to other foods. Use milk or cheese to boost the calcium content of meals. Add milk or sour cream to mashed potatoes, make lasagna with cottage cheese and microwave some broccoli with melted cheese on top.
  • Try smoothies. Blend some fruits or veggies with milk, plain yogurt or soy milk for a tasty beverage high in calcium.
  • Go for greens. Add some calcium-rich veggies to main dishes. Consider kale, Chinese cabbage and spinach.

How much do you need?

Recommended calcium intake varies by age and sex:

Birth to 6 months: 200 mg

Infants 7–12 months: 260 mg

Children 1–3 years: 700 mg

Children 4–8 years: 1,000 mg

Children 9-13 years: 1,300 mg

Teens 14–18 years: 1,300 mg

Adults 19–50 years: 1,000 mg

Adult men 51–70 years: 1,000 mg

Adult women 51–70 years: 1,200 mg

Adults 71 years and older: 1,200 mg

Increase absorption with vitamin D

But don’t forget: Consuming calcium isn’t enough. Your body needs to absorb the mineral properly to enjoy its bone-boosting benefits. To promote the absorption of calcium, make sure your body has enough vitamin D.

You can get vitamin D naturally by being outside in the sunshine or seek out nutritional sources. Just add egg yolks, liver, mushrooms, fatty fish or fortified milk or juices to your diet.

The Do's and Do Not's of Teething Treatment

When a baby’s first teeth come in, it can be a pain for the whole family. Incisors usually break through around age 6 months, leaving parents and infants in sore need of relief.

Although a number of popular treatments promise to soothe sensitive gums, not all methods are reliable, or even safe. Here’s an overview of the best — and worst — ideas.

Don’t try this at home

Proponents of amber teething necklaces claim that the stones release a pain-relieving substance that is absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin. However, closer scrutiny reveals no scientific evidence to back up those assertions – and the beads may even pose a choking hazard.1

Another no-no is lidocaine. The topical anesthetic can be toxic to infants and young children, leading to seizures, brain damage or even death.

Tried-and-true methods

Rely on these proven strategies to give your child risk-free relief:

  • Massage the gums with your finger, after washing your hands
  • Hold a cool spoon to the sensitive area
  • Let your child chew on a cold washcloth under supervision
  • Chill pacifiers in the fridge before use
  • Give your child a teething ring to bite on

And, finally, just wait. Your child’s last teeth should come in by age 2 or 3, bringing teething troubles to a close.

The 101 on Braces

Want straight teeth? Braces are one of the most popular ways to go. This orthodontic appliance is usually placed in patients ages 12 to 15 to correct crooked or overcrowded teeth.

“The benefits of braces are many,” said Kevin Sheu, DDS, director of professional services for Delta Dental. “Straight teeth, an attractive smile, improved dental function and, often, improved overall health are all results of wearing braces.”

Below are some answers to questions about staying comfortable and healthy while wearing braces.

Why is good oral hygiene with braces so important? Food and plaque can get trapped in the tiny spaces between braces and wires, causing decay and enamel stains. Food can also react with the bacteria in your mouth and the metal in the braces to produce a bleaching effect, which can cause small, permanent light spots on the teeth.

How should teeth and braces be cleaned? You should brush after every meal and use a floss threader or special orthodontic floss (available at drug stores) at least once a day to clean between braces and under wires. Check your teeth in a mirror to make sure all food particles are gone. If you don't have your toothbrush with you, rinse your mouth vigorously with water.

How do braces feel? The wires that are used to move teeth into position are usually tightened at each visit to the dentist or orthodontist. This causes pressure on the teeth and some discomfort. Eating soft foods and taking a pain reliever, such as acetaminophen, can help. Also, braces can rub against the inside of the lips. If this is a problem, wax can be placed on the wires to keep them from chafing (available from your dentist or orthodontist and at drug stores).

How long do braces have to be worn? It depends on how complicated the spacing or occlusion (bite) problem is. Most braces are worn for 18 to 30 months. After the braces are removed, the patient wears a retainer, which is used to maintain the position of the teeth while setting and aligning the tissues that surround the newly-straightened teeth.

Should any foods be avoided? Yes. Sweets, soda and other sugary and starchy foods can promote tooth decay and gum disease. Sticky and chewy foods (caramel, taffy, chewing gum, dried fruits) can stick to braces and be difficult to remove. Biting and chewing hard foods, such as some candies and nuts, ice, beef jerky and popcorn, can break wires and loosen brackets. Avoid damaging wires on the front teeth by cutting carrots, apples and other crunchy, healthy foods into bite-sized chunks before eating them.

The 5 Smart Ways to Pack a Healthier Lunch for Your Kids

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How much sugar is in that lunch? A bag lunch from home can be a cheaper and healthier alternative to the school cafeteria, but it depends on what you pack. Try these tips to give your kids a lunch makeover that even their dentist will approve of.

1. Say no to applesauce

Cups of applesauce are practical and portable, but the snack is loaded with natural and added sugars that promote cavities. Try a small container of cottage cheese instead. To spice things up, you can toss on some blueberries or sliced strawberries for extra flavor!

2. Choose real fruit

Fruit snacks and fruit leathers are popular among kids, but not their dentists. These sticky snacks can cling to teeth and encourage plaque. Go for the real deal instead. Offer slices of banana, apple and strawberries, or try no-prep options like grapes and mandarin oranges.

3. Plain milk is best

Milk is a great source of calcium. But flavored options, like chocolate or strawberry milk, contain added sugars that can cause decay. Swap out these sweet options with plain milk to cut out unnecessary sugar. To make plain milk more fun, you can try adding a drop of food coloring. If your kids don’t like milk, string cheese is another good dairy option.

4. Skip the starchy snacks

Salty snacks like pretzels, chips and crackers may seem OK for teeth because they’re low in sugar, but don’t be mistaken. Simple starches can be just as bad as sweets, if not worse. These snacks break down into a sticky goo, coating teeth and causing cavities. Looking for some crunchy alternatives? Try sunflower seeds, almonds or baby carrots. Other savory snack ideas include hard-boiled eggs and chunks of cheddar cheese.

5. Choose colorful vegetables

Give your kids an assortment of colorful veggies. Kids are more likely to eat snacks that look appealing, and the different colors feature different vitamins and minerals. Red and orange veggies are usually high in vitamin C (good for gums), while leafy green vegetables are good sources of calcium (for strong teeth). Consider cherry tomatoes, strips of red and orange bell peppers and steamed broccoli with melted cheese. Don’t forget about fun-to-eat snacks like snap peas and edamame.

An Apple A Day...

Dietary habits of schoolchildren encourage an increase in sugar intake leading to a greater risk of cavities, reports the Academy of General Dentistry.

Over a 15-month period, researchers tracked the dietary habits and monitored the teeth of preschool children before and after the start of school. Results show that decayed, missing or filled teeth and initial cavities of the children jumped from 9.7 (at age five) to 15.3 cavities (at age six), an increase of 5.6 cavities within one year. Over the length of the study, the percentage of cavity-free schoolchildren dropped from 23 to 19 percent.

The easiest way parents can help children prevent tooth decay and cavities at school is to monitor their eating habits. For example, parents can offer their children healthy snack alternatives, such as apples, bite-size carrots or other foods that are naturally sweet, and instruct children to avoid candies, chocolate, caramels, chocolate milk and other foods that contain refined sugar. Cavity-causing organisms feed on sugar and turn it into acid, which attacks tooth enamel and causes tooth decay. Sticky, chewy candy especially can linger on teeth throughout the day. If children do happen to eat sugary snacks at lunch, they should brush and rinse with water or eat a piece of fruit to help clean teeth surfaces and gums.

Also, parents should find out what their child's school lunch program offers. If programs do not offer healthy alternatives, talk to the school about incorporating healthy lunches or snacks.

Finally, parents should consider professionally-applied sealants as another way to protect children's teeth from cavities. Sealants, a thin coating of bonding material applied over a tooth, act as a barrier to cavity-causing bacteria. They can be put on as soon as the child's first permanent molars (back teeth) appear.

Imaging and Its Important in Your Dental Health

The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is especially true in dentistry. About 70% of people are visual learners, with dentists being even more so. When dentists communicate with patients or peers, visual imagery is key to their success. Diagnosis, treatment planning, patient education, interdisciplinary collaboration, and practice promotion require effective imaging. You could say that what you see is what you get. Not getting that shortchanges you in terms of treatment outcomes, case acceptance, and practice production.

Digital Radiography
Dentists understand that imaging is fundamental to diagnosis and treatment planning. Without radiographs, dentistry would literally be practicing in the dark. Although conventional radiography has served dentistry very well over the years, today’s digital radiography is far better, and it surprises me that, as of this writing, just 60% of dentists in the United States use digital x-rays.

The advantages of digital radiography are innumerable. Besides the savings realized in not having to use film and developing chemicals (and these cost savings let digital systems pay for themselves promptly), digital radiography affords superior diagnostics with image size, contrast, acuity, and magnification (Figures 1 and 2). Unlike radiographs viewed on lightboxes, digital radiographs give doctors superior diagnostics since they can be manipulated by their associated software.

Digital radiography also enhances patient communication. Prior to digital technology, holding up radiographs to operatory unit lights over patients and having them see what I wanted them to, never mind understand it, never worked well for me. I suspect this is the case for most doctors. By contrast, when having patients look at radiographs on a computer monitor while indicating conditions with a cursor, magnifying salient features, and enhancing sharpness or contrast, those images become powerful diagnostic and communications tools (Figure 3).

 

Figure 1. A digital radiograph of this patient’s symptomatic tooth No. 19. This image initially suggested incipient periapical pathology at the mesial apex, but was not conclusive.

Figure 1. A digital radiograph of this patient’s symptomatic tooth No. 19. This image initially suggested incipient periapical pathology at the mesial apex, but was not conclusive.

Figure 2. Adjusting contrast and magnifying the mesial apex using the digital radiographic system’s associated software helped confirm the diagnosis of apical periodontitis.

Figure 2. Adjusting contrast and magnifying the mesial apex using the digital radiographic system’s associated software helped confirm the diagnosis of apical periodontitis.

  Figure 3. This radiograph, when shown to a patient with subgingival decay at her upper centrals (indicated by the cursor), helped her understand the need for core placement and replacing the existing crowns.

 

Figure 3. This radiograph, when shown to a patient with subgingival decay at her upper centrals (indicated by the cursor), helped her understand the need for core placement and replacing the existing crowns.

Moreover, this technology supports improved interprofessional communication and boosts interdisciplinary treatment. Copying film radiographs is problematic. Emailing digital radiographs to a specialist or a general practice in another state where your patient has moved makes such transfers much easier. The ability to look at and adjust images as clinicians teleconference about them in real time is enormously beneficial.

CBCT Imaging
Beyond the traditional views used in most practices, digital imaging has afforded dentistry cone beam computed tomography (CBCT). First introduced to America in 2001 (NewTom QR 9000 [QR, srl]), these machines (such as the Galileos Comfort Plus[Dentsply Sirona] and CS 8100 3D [Carestream Dental]) give us 360° of vision into our patients. Their advantages cannot be overemphasized! CBCT has revolutionized how we plan and execute treatment. It can tell oral surgeons whether impacted lower molars impinge upon inferior alveolar nerves or are merely superimposed on them by 2-dimensional panoramic images (Figures 4 to 6). It also can show endodontists accessory canals or hidden pathologies (Figure 7).

Figure 4. A conventional panoramic view of this patient’s mesially tipped and fully impacted third molars seemingly indicated that each tooth was partially contained within the mandibular canal.

Figure 4. A conventional panoramic view of this patient’s mesially tipped and fully impacted third molars seemingly indicated that each tooth was partially contained within the mandibular canal.

Figure 5. CBCT revealed the exact location of these structures showing (in red upper left) that the mandibular canal was actually buccal to impacted tooth No. 17.

Figure 5. CBCT revealed the exact location of these structures showing (in red upper left) that the mandibular canal was actually buccal to impacted tooth No. 17.

Figure 6. A similar scenario was noted with tooth No. 32 on CBCT scan.

Figure 6. A similar scenario was noted with tooth No. 32 on CBCT scan.

Figure 7. CBCT in this case revealed radicular crazing at No. 19 (left arrows) and 2 canals in close proximity at the distal root of endodontically treated tooth No. 30 (right arrows).

Figure 7. CBCT in this case revealed radicular crazing at No. 19 (left arrows) and 2 canals in close proximity at the distal root of endodontically treated tooth No. 30 (right arrows).

CBCT technology is especially valuable in implant dentistry. CBCT scans are uniquely capable of identifying relevant anatomical structures, determining if a sinus lift is needed, detecting whether adjacent roots will impede implant placement, or selecting the size of a dental implant in a particular site (Figure 8). These scans, with their associated software (such as Simplant [Dentsply International] or CS 3D [Carestream Dental]), are also a tremendous aid in communication with the dental laboratory team.

Immediate protocols for implant dentistry are essential today. Demanding patients who require treatment in the aesthetic zone insist on them and will choose their practitioner on that basis. Looking at the effect of ClearChoice dental implant centers on our profession obviates this. CBCT scanning software can marry clinical images with intraoral impressions to fabricate surgical stents necessary for guided implant placement (Figures 9 and 10) as well as custom abutments with their provisional and definitive restorations.5 This is done using computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) processes, planning from the point of those restorations backward (Figures 11 to 13) as required in restoratively driven implant dentistry.6

Figure 8. CBCT imaging of this patient’s fully edentulous maxilla (shared online with a colleague during a teleconference) facilitates determination of the optimal locations for the 4 implants that will be used to support his complete denture prosthesis.

Figure 8. CBCT imaging of this patient’s fully edentulous maxilla (shared online with a colleague during a teleconference) facilitates determination of the optimal locations for the 4 implants that will be used to support his complete denture prosthesis.

Figure 9. The CAD/CAM process first produces a virtual surgical guide using CBCT and impression scans before fabrication of the actual clinical guide that will be used during surgery.

Figure 9. The CAD/CAM process first produces a virtual surgical guide using CBCT and impression scans before fabrication of the actual clinical guide that will be used during surgery.

Figure 10. When used during surgery, the CAD/CAM fabricated guide allows for precise implant placement.

Figure 10. When used during surgery, the CAD/CAM fabricated guide allows for precise implant placement.

Imaging for Communication
Intraoral cameras (such as the Schick USBCam4 [Dentsply Sirona] or the IRIS HD 3.0 [Digital Doc]) and still photography are vital to dental imaging for peer, patient, and dental laboratory communication, case documentation, and treatment acceptance7 (Figures 14 to 16). The first intraoral camera was analog, introduced in 1987 (DentaCam [Fuji Optical Systems]). In 2011, Dental Practice Report noted that 70% of American dentists had intraoral cameras, showing that doctors accept intraoral videography more than digital radiography.

Figure 11. CBCT and impression scanning provide a unified virtual model upon which the correct contours and position of the implant crowns (both provisional and definitive) can be first designed.

Figure 11. CBCT and impression scanning provide a unified virtual model upon which the correct contours and position of the implant crowns (both provisional and definitive) can be first designed.

Figure 12. Next, the angulation path of the abutment was calculated.

Figure 12. Next, the angulation path of the abutment was calculated.

Figure 13. Lastly, the position of the implant, based on the crown/abutment combination already formulated, was (virtually) identified.

Figure 13. Lastly, the position of the implant, based on the crown/abutment combination already formulated, was (virtually) identified.

Digital camera systems for dentistry were first introduced in 2003. Digital single lens reflex (SLR) cameras (such as the D7200[Nikon] or the T2i [Canon]) have dental packages available from dealers like Lester A. Dine or CliniPix. Clinical still photography, despite its advocacy by many dental organizations, has never gained the level of popularity it deserves with American dentists. Manufacturers’ representatives are your best source of technical training for these cameras. However, for clinical still photography or, especially, portraiture, courses such as those offered by Dr. Jason Olitsky at the Clinical Mastery Series are invaluable.

It should be noted that the smaller file sizes of intraoral camera images are often insufficient for some forms of communication. When specialists need to see intricate details of soft-tissue lesions or laboratories need shade information, digital still photography is inherently superior to an intraoral camera. The mapping generated by some of today’s digital shade matchers (such as SpectroShade Micro II [SpectroShade] or Zfx Shade [Zfx GmbH]) is advantageous to laboratory technicians who are tasked with matching the restorations to the lifelike look of adjacent natural teeth (Figure 17). They are extremely reliable and boast remarkable accuracy.

Also, dentists who lecture and/or write clinical articles will need the higher-quality images of a digital camera. It has been my experience that print journals find the smaller file sizes from many intraoral cameras (as well as digital radiography software) inadequate for the production process. This is where these software platforms need improvement.

Promotional Imagery
When it comes to my finished cosmetic and aesthetic cases, clinical photography is imperative (Figures 18 and 19). Dental patients expect and only accept such treatment after seeing photographs of your own cases and computer simulations using their before pictures. While stock before and after photos of cosmetic cases are available online (at shutterstock.com, for example), I believe it is far better to show patients your own work for credibility should resulting outcomes not match patient expectations created by stock photos.

Figure 14. A white lesion on the glossal border of this patient’s tongue was much more easily visualized with an intraoral camera than would have been possible using only a hand mirror and the operatory light.

Figure 14. A white lesion on the glossal border of this patient’s tongue was much more easily visualized with an intraoral camera than would have been possible using only a hand mirror and the operatory light.

Figure 15.Treatment recommendations are more easily accepted when patients can readily see how the structural integrity of their teeth has been compromised by crazing, as seen in this intraoral camera view.

Figure 15.Treatment recommendations are more easily accepted when patients can readily see how the structural integrity of their teeth has been compromised by crazing, as seen in this intraoral camera view.

Figure 16. Cervical caries often obstructed by the lips (especially on the lower) is easily shown to patients using an intraoral camera.

Figure 16. Cervical caries often obstructed by the lips (especially on the lower) is easily shown to patients using an intraoral camera.

Figure 17. Digital shade-matching devices that generate maps for the laboratory technician to follow convey information for indirect restorations in an extremely effective manner.

Figure 17. Digital shade-matching devices that generate maps for the laboratory technician to follow convey information for indirect restorations in an extremely effective manner.

References
  1. Felder RM, Silverman LK. Learning and teaching styles in engineering education. Engineering Education. 1988;78:674-681.
  2. Murphy RJ, Gray SA, Straja SR, et al. Student learning preferences and teaching implications. J Dent Educ. 2004;68:859-866.
  3. Comisi JC, Farman AG, Margeas AR. The current state of digital radiography. Inside Dentistry. 2016;12:32-34.
  4. Tuggle H. Switching from film to digital radiography: many benefits for dentists to reap. Compend Contin Educ Dent. 2013;34:322.
  5. McArdle BF, Spivey JD, Avery DR. The immediate smile: fixed provisionalization using digital technology. Dent Today. 2015;34:88-91.
  6. Scherer MD. Presurgical implant-site assessment and restoratively driven digital planning. Dent Clin North Am. 2014;58:561-595.
  7. Samaras C. Intraoral cameras: the value is clear. Compend Contin Educ Dent. 2005;26(suppl 6A):456-458.
  8. Shorey R, Moore KE. Clinical digital photography: implementation of clinical photography for everyday practice. J Calif Dent Assoc. 2009;37:179-183.
  9. Christensen GJ. Helping patients understand and accept the best treatment plans. Todays FDA. 2012;24:60-63.
  10. Kim-Pusateri S, Brewer JD, Davis EL, et al. Reliability and accuracy of four dental shade-matching devices. J Prosthet Dent. 2009;101:193-199.
  11. Almog D, Sanchez Marin C, Proskin HM, et al. The effect of esthetic consultation methods on acceptance of diastema-closure treatment plan: a pilot study. J Am Dent Assoc. 2004;135:875-881.
  12. Behle C. Portrait photography for the dentist. J Calif Dent Assoc. 2001;29:773-781.
  13. Henry RK, Molnar A, Henry JC. A survey of US dental practices’ uses of social media. J Contemp Dent Pract. 2012;13:137-141.
  14. Mcarle, Barry. Restorative Dentistry. 2017

Cough Syrup & Potential Cavities

It’s that time of year when coughs, colds and flu can make your life miserable. And like most people, you’ll probably reach for an over-the-counter medication to ease your symptoms. But did you know that spoonful of medicine could add tooth decay to your list of side effects?

Many cough drops and liquid medications contain a variety of ingredients that make your teeth more susceptible to decay:

  • Ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and sucrose contribute to decay when the bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugars, breaking them down and forming acids that attack the enamel of your teeth.
  • Ingredients such as citric acid can wear down the enamel of your teeth. In addition, some antihistamine syrups contain low pH levels and high acidity, which can be a dangerous combination for your teeth.
  • The addition of alcohol in some popular cold and cough syrups also has a drying effect on the mouth. Saliva helps to naturally rinse the sugars and acids away from your teeth – so with less saliva present, the sugars and acids remain in the mouth even longer, leading to greater risk for decay.

These risks can be magnified if medication is taken before bedtime. The effects of taking liquid medication before bedtime aren’t much different than drinking juice or soda before bedtime – because you produce less saliva while you sleep, sugar and acids remain in contact with the teeth longer, increasing your risk for decay.

What’s the remedy?

There are things you can do to lessen the effects of the sugars and acids in liquid medication.

  • Take liquid medication at meal times instead of bedtime so that more saliva is produced to rinse away the sugars and acids.
  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste after taking medication.
  • If you can’t brush, rinse your mouth well with water or chew sugar-free gum after taking liquid medication.
  • Take calcium supplements or use topical fluoride after using liquid medication.
  • If it’s available, choose a pill form of the medication instead of syrup.
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