When Do I Start Brushing My Baby’s Teeth and Gums?

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Baby teeth are more than just placeholders for your child’s adult teeth. They help young children chew and even speak clearly. Taking good care of your child’s baby teeth lays a healthy, strong foundation for their permanent teeth, too.

Gum Care Starts at Birth
You can start building healthy oral health habits as soon as your little one arrives. Wipe down your newborn or infant’s gums twice a day, preferably just after feeding. Use a soft, moistened washcloth or a bit of damp gauze.

When It’s Time for the Toothbrush
When your child’s first tooth appears, it’s time for the toothbrush. Choose one with soft bristles and a large handle. The bristles and head will be comfortable for your baby, while the large handle is easier for you to handle.

Parents often ask us if it’s okay to use toothpaste for their young children’s new teeth. We recommend just using water at first, and then introduce fluoride-free toothpaste around age 1. When your child can adequately spit into the sink, it is time to start using fluoride toothpaste, generally using the standard pea-sized amount.

Another question we get is when it’s okay to have your kids start brushing their own teeth. If your child can hold their brush themselves, they can start brushing their own teeth—with your supervision, of course! This means mom or dad should ALWAYS follow up the brushing, looking for and pointing out any areas that were missed, especially in the far back. Children really don’t have the dexterity and understanding to fully brush completely alone until age 8-10.

Why Good Oral Care Matters for Kids
Can wiping down your newborn’s gums and brushing your child’s single baby tooth really make that much of a difference? Yes. Baby teeth are susceptible to tooth decay just like permanent teeth are. Brown or white spots on baby teeth, pits in baby teeth, cavities, and other signs of decay can be painful for your child and prevent them from chewing properly.

To prevent tooth decay in young children, we suggest you stick to breast milk, formula, and water before 6 months. After your child is eating solid foods, continue to avoid sugary drinks, including soda and juice. Never put sugar or honey on your child’s pacifier.

A Quick Word on Teething
Teething is a natural process that occurs through age 2-3, when most baby teeth have been pushed through your child’s gums. Erupting teeth can cause discomfort or even pain for your child. If your little one is drooling more than usual, has swollen gums, or a higher than normal temperature, chances are he or she is teething. Alleviate the pain with a cold washcloth or teething ring. Rubbing their gums with a clean finger can also provide relief.

We look forward to seeing your little one for their first dental appointment around their first birthday. We’ll help you build healthy habits and can give you tips on tooth care, teething, and thumb sucking. Schedule your child’s recare visit today.

Teen Nutrition Tips for a Healthy Mouth and Body

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Have you noticed how busy teens are today? In addition to school and a few hours of homework every night, they’ve got soccer practice, dance lessons, and marching band. On weekends, the stress continues with all-day tournaments and a packed social calendar. While being so on-the-go, it’s easy to see how good eating and oral health habits get pushed down the priority list. We’ve definitely seen it with our own teenage boys Peter and Luke!

But building a healthy mouth and body during adolescence is one of your teenager’s most important jobs. The habits they build now will last long into adulthood. That’s why Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff encourage their teen patients to take the time to slow down, make healthy eating choices, get enough sleep, and of course carve out time at the beginning and end of their days to brush and floss.

Here are a few healthy tips to share with your teen.

You Are What You Eat (and So Is Your Mouth)

Food is the fuel our body uses to build muscle, grow healthy bones, and help the brain to function optimally. Your mouth is ground zero for the food you eat. If that food is high in sugar and very acidic, it wreaks havoc on your teeth and gums. It’s not that great for the rest of your body, either, since sugary foods provide little or no nutrition.

The great news is that the foods that are healthy for your teeth and gums are also healthy for your entire body. Whole foods rich with fiber and protein provide excellent nutrition without leaving sugars behind on your teeth. Drinking lots of water helps your brain and body stay hydrated and working efficiently. It also helps wash away any food left in your mouth after eating.

Take the Time to Eat Breakfast and Brush and Floss Your Teeth

Think about it—when you get up in the morning, your body has not eaten for hours! It needs fuel to wake up and get moving. Fiber and protein-rich breakfasts provide great nutrition and keep you feeling full all morning. Try a breakfast burrito or egg sandwich on a whole-grain English muffin.

Morning breath is usually enough of a motivator to brush your teeth in the morning. But after a full day of school, homework, and practice, it’s tempting to collapse into bed without brushing and flossing.

Think about it—all the sugar and food particles from the entire day will sit in your mouth for hours if you don’t brush and floss! All that sugar is a feast for bacteria that causes tooth decay. Yikes!

We encourage our teen patients to create and stick to a bedtime brushing and flossing habit. It only takes a few minutes and goes a long way toward maintaining a healthy mouth. Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff may also recommend sealants to support your good habits. Sealants fill in the grooves in the top of your back teeth. These areas are hard to clean and are prone to decay. Sealants help make your job a lot easier.

Has it been awhile since you’ve seen us? Schedule your recare appointment with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff today.

Best (and Worst!) Halloween Candy for Your Teeth

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Eggert Family Halloween

If your family is like the Eggert clan, your little ones look forward to Halloween with giddy anticipation. Even Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff have been known to sneak a piece of candy or two from their kids’ treat buckets. An occasional treat isn’t going to do much damage, but binging on Halloween candy can wreak havoc on your teeth (and your kids’ teeth, too). Here’s our list of the best and worst Halloween candy for your choppers.

Halloween Candy: The Good
Chocolate tops the list of candy that’s compatible with your teeth. It’s also one of the most popular Halloween candies. Chocolate itself isn’t sticky like many other candies, so it washes off your teeth easily.

Sugar-free candies are also excellent options. Sucking on a sugar-free lollipop or hard candy stimulates the production of saliva, which helps to wash away the food bacteria eats. Sugar-free gum is a good choice, too.

Halloween Candy: The Bad
Halloween CandyWhile sugar-free candies are good, sugary hard candies and lollipops are not. They produce saliva like their sugar-free counterparts, but the sugar from the candy gets absorbed by your saliva and washes over your teeth.

Sour candy is also one to avoid. These types of candies are highly acidic in addition to being sticky and coated in a layer of sugar. The acidity can break down the enamel in your teeth, leaving them at risk of cavities and gum disease.

Halloween Candy: The Ugly
But the worst culprits in your kid’s Halloween treat bucket are chewy, sticky candies. Gummy bears, fruity candy, taffy, licorice, and other sticky treats get caught between your kids’ teeth. They can linger there for days, providing a sugary feast for bacteria. That’s why chewy, sticky candies are the worst Halloween candies for your teeth.

Halloween’s a fun time, and we all enjoy a sugary treat or two from our kids’ treat buckets. Brushing, flossing, and recare appointments throughout the year can help protect your teeth during the spookiest time of year. Schedule your family’s recare appointment today.

Hudson’s Composite Bonding Success Story: Congenitally Missing Teeth

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

A wisdom tooth that never grew in is a good thing—one less tooth to remove! However, being a child with a missing front tooth is quite a different story. Teenage years are often difficult enough without having to worry about appearance. With the emotional roller coaster of being a teen, we need to give our children any excuse to smile!

A congenitally missing tooth is one of the most common dental developmental abnormalities. In fact, roughly 20 percent of adults have at least one tooth that never developed.

Why is that number so high? Well, we’ve all heard of that person who didn’t develop all, if any, wisdom teeth. If you take wisdom teeth out of the picture, the percentage of adults with congenitally missing teeth drops to only 5 percent. Other permanent teeth we see missing are second premolars, upper lateral incisors, and lower central incisors.

Hudson’s Success Story

Hudson Before
Hudson’s Smile Before

Hudson is a 17-year-old patient of ours who never developed his upper lateral incisors. Typically, implants are the treatment of choice to replace missing teeth like this. The golden rule for teenagers is to proceed with implant placement once skeletal growth is complete. Early implant placement, at a time of continuing growth, can lead to unaesthetic final results.

Hudson wore traditional braces to improve and even out the spacing to allow room for implants once skeletal growth is complete. But, what could be done now for Hudson?

Dr. Elizabeth recommended composite bonding, which should last many years and give Hudson a fixed option to replace the missing teeth and keep his teeth from shifting. To even out Hudson’s symmetry, resin composite bonding material was added to his six front teeth to create a natural-looking smile that he can confidently wear until it’s time for implants. Hudson loves his new smile!

Hudson After
Hudson’s Smile After

Don’t let missing teeth affect your confidence. Contact us today to discuss treatment options.

Hudson Before and After
Hudson’s Smile Before and After

Keep Your Mouth Healthy All Summer Long

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Summertime can make it hard for people to take good care of their teeth. Vacations, summer camp and days at the pool interfere with everyone’s schedule and unfortunately, brushing routines may suffer. Both kids and grownups may face the temptation of extra sugar, from donuts in the car on the way to the beach, to a cooler full of pop, to late night s’mores around the campfire.

Here are some tips for ensuring that when September comes, your teeth are in better shape than they were in June.

Remind kids to keep to their regular brushing and flossing schedule–and remind yourself, too.

Start summer with a fresh toothbrush for everyone, and a fresh travel brush too. Get travel-sized toothpastes for the whole family, and a few backup brushes for guests and to cover misplaced toothbrushes.

Keep the kitchen and cooler stocked with healthy snacks. Think fruits and vegetables instead of sweets. Sugar encourages bacteria and acidity in your mouth, which causes plaque to form and damage to easily occur with your enamel and gums. Every time you eat sugar, your mouth will boost acid production for up to 20 minutes.

Soda is especially harsh on teeth, containing phosphoric acid and citric acid, which weakens tooth enamel  and makes it more susceptible to cavities. Instead of soda and juice, choose iced tea or water perked up with sliced berries, citrus or cucumber and a few mint leaves.

Book check-ups before school starts again.  It is important that all members of your family see us at least  twice annually. This will also help reduce the chance that someone in your family will suffer tooth pain on vacation.

Quit tobacco. Nicotine and tar damage your gums, and encourage bacteria and plaque. Tobacco can also lead to oral cancer. Smoking and chewing are bad news for your oral health.

Have both kids and grownups wear the proper protective headgear and mouthguards for contact sports.

Enforce the rules around the pool–they’re ubiquitous for a reason! According to the Academy of General Dentistry, summer oral injuries often take place around the pool. Shallow-water dives, running on slippery pool decks, and bumping the pool ledge can easily chip or fracture a tooth or even knock one loose.

Put together a dental emergency kit for sports and vacations. Include a clean handkerchief, gauze, a clean small-lidded container, ibuprofen and our office’s contact information.

If you are around a dental injury, get the patient to our dental office ASAP. In the meantime, clean the area with warm water and apply a cold pack to reduce swelling. Use gauze to stop bleeding. If a permanent tooth has been knocked out, place it back in the mouth if possible. Otherwise, place it in salt water or milk to keep it moist and bring all fragments into our office with you.

We at Eggert Family Dentistry look forward to seeing you! Please come in for your summer checkup, and take good care of your teeth, mouth and gums so you can enjoy uneventful checkups for years to come.

Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Baby bottle tooth decay“Baby bottle tooth decay” is a term used to describe tooth decay in infants and toddlers, often referring to decay of the top front teeth specifically. Though it occurs when your child is an infant or toddler, baby bottle tooth decay can affect your child’s oral health for years to come. Is your child at risk, and what can you do to prevent baby bottle tooth decay in your little one?

What causes baby bottle tooth decay?

Baby bottles are not the sole cause of baby bottle tooth decay, though excessive use of bottles to soothe children can be a factor. Putting your child to bed with a bottle or using a bottle as a pacifier exposes your child’s teeth to the sugars in milk and juice. Bacteria in your child’s mouth feed on this sugar and create plaque, tartar, and eventually, cavities.

But there’s another, less obvious cause of baby bottle tooth decay. When you put your child’s feeding spoon or pacifier in your mouth to clean it, you pass bacteria in your mouth to your child’s mouth. This seemingly innocuous habit can also put your child’s teeth at risk.

How can I prevent baby bottle tooth decay in my young child?

Fortunately, preventing baby bottle tooth decay is simple: avoid excessive bottle use and sharing saliva with your little one, and develop good oral health habits as soon as your child’s teeth start to emerge. The American Dental Association has some more tips for preventing baby bottle tooth decay:

  • Allow children to finish their bottles before being put to bed.
  • Don’t put honey or another sweetener on your child’s pacifier.
  • Only place formula or breast milk in bottles and avoid giving young children sugary drinks.
  • Encourage your one-year-old to drink from a cup, ideally one without a spill-proof valve.
  • Wipe your child’s gums with a clean, damp gauze or washcloth, and once teeth appear, brush them gently with a child-safe toothpaste.

Good oral health habits should start in your child’s first few months of life and set them up for a lifetime of healthy smiles. To schedule your child’s first dental appointment, contact Eggert Family Dentistry today.

Fluoride in Water: What You Need to Know

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Fluoride in waterSince the 1960s, communities across Minnesota and the United States have added fluoride to their community water supplies. Fluoridating water is an easy and cost-effective way to improve residents’ oral health. Though some consumers find the practice controversial, many scientific studies back up the health benefits of fluoridated water. Here are a few of our favorite reasons to love the fluoride in your water.

  1. Fluoride prevents cavities in kids and adults.

Fluoride can reduce tooth decay by 25 percent for kids and adults alike across all education levels and socio-economic statuses. It’s no wonder the Centers for Disease Control has called fluoridation of water one of the 10 greatest public health achievements in the 20th century.

  1. Fluoride is safe for your family.

Fluoride is an element found in most natural water sources, just not necessarily in amounts that prevent tooth decay. The Environmental Protection Agency strictly regulates the amount of fluoride in community water supplies to keep it safe and healthy to drink. Compared to other sugary beverages such as soda and fruit juice, fluoridated water is a great choice for your family.

  1. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel of permanent teeth.

Fluoride helps strengthen the enamel of permanent teeth, which protects the rest of the tooth from decay and disease. For kids under age 8, fluoride can even strengthen permanent teeth that have not erupted yet, reducing the chance kids will develop cavities or require fillings.

  1. Fluoridated water saves money.

Yes, it does cost money to fluoridate your community’s water. But your community’s investment in fluoridated water reaps a strong return as families and your city’s health care system spend less money on treating tooth decay and related oral diseases. The Centers for Disease Control estimate towns of 5,000 people or fewer save $4 per person and larger cities save $27 per person.

  1. Fluoride supports regular brushing, flossing, and recare visits at our office.

Fluoride in your tap water helps support the good oral health habits you and your family already practice. In addition, we offer in-office fluoride treatments to children and adults alike to increase cavity prevention.   The varnish is quick, painless, and will protect all the teeth in your family.

Want to learn more about fluoride or schedule your family’s summer recare visits? Contact Eggert Family Dentistry today.

Your Child’s Teeth from Age 6 to Age 12: What You Need to Know

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Oral Health from age 6 to age 12By age two, your child should have a complete set of primary teeth that will stay put until the first tooth is lost, around age six. But well before then, around age four, your child’s jaw and facial bones start to develop to make room for the permanent teeth, which develop under the primary teeth. It’s important that your child has good oral health habits starting early in development so the primary and then permanent teeth are healthy and serve well into adulthood.

Age Six to Age Eight

The tooth fairy usually makes her first visit to most households near the age of six. That’s when children lose their first primary teeth and the first permanent teeth appear. The permanent first molars erupt behind the primary teeth and are usually the first to come in, followed by the lower front teeth and upper front teeth. It’s completely normal for your child’s teeth to be different sizes, look uneven, and even appear missing. But don’t worry: by early adolescence, your child’s smile will come into place.

As permanent teeth appear, it’s important to continue the good oral health habits you started with your child’s primary teeth. The health of your child’s permanent teeth affects the ability to chew foods, speak, and smile. Encourage your child to avoid sugar and develop healthy eating habits to support his or her oral health.

Continue to brush and floss your child’s teeth until they are at least six years old. By age eight, most kids can brush their own teeth with supervision, but you should continue to floss your child’s teeth until they turn 10 or 11. Until these ages, children really don’t have the ability to fully clean all the teeth surfaces.  Only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Ask us for a recommendation for child-safe options.

Age Eight to Age Thirteen

Between ages eight and thirteen, your child’s permanent cuspids, bicuspids, and second molars will appear. As they do, we recommend sealants to protect teeth from cavities and tooth decay. Sealants are protective substances that we apply to your child’s teeth and is as easy as a regular dental checkup. The material bonds to your child’s teeth and fills in the pits and grooves that naturally appear on a tooth’s surface. This painless process can protect your child’s teeth for years before needing to be reapplied.

During this time, your child can take responsibility for more aspects of their health, including brushing, flossing, and making healthy eating choices. As more permanent teeth come in, it may become apparent that your child will need braces or other dental appliances to fix misaligned teeth or a bad bite. We can help you identify when and if these issues arise and will recommend an orthodontist.

If your kids are active in sports, it’s important to protect the permanent teeth from injury. A mouth guard protects teeth from being broken, knocked out, or from injuring your child’s lip or tongue during contact sports. There are many over-the-counter versions, but even better is to have us make a custom-fit mouth guard for your child.

Eggert Family Dentistry can help you and your child build good oral health habits that will keep the permanent teeth healthy well into adulthood. Schedule your child’s next dental recare visit with our dental team today.

Your Child’s Teeth from Birth to Age 6: What You Need to Know

Oral health birth to age 6By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Did you know your child’s teeth start developing 6 weeks after conception? While baby teeth may not appear until your child is 6 months old, a lot of oral development occurs well before your child reaches that milestone. Here’s what you need to know about your child’s teeth from birth to age six.

Birth to Two Years

Your child is born with a complete set of baby, or primary, teeth under the gums. Typically around 6 months of age, your child’s lower central incisors—their lower front teeth—erupt as a pair, followed approximately a month later by the upper central incisors. Lateral incisors, cuspids, and first and second molars erupt in pairs over the next 18 months until your child has a complete set of primary teeth before the age of three.

As parents know well, erupting teeth can make for cranky kids. Gums are often tender and sore, and the discomfort can cause your child to become irritable, have trouble sleeping, and can increase drooling, chewing, and sucking. You may notice your child rubbing their face or grabbing their ears, too. Gently rubbing your child’s gums with a clean, damp cloth or gauze or a chilled teething ring can be comforting.

Two Years to Six Years

Your child’s primary teeth serve several essential purposes, which is why it’s important to keep them clean and healthy. Primary teeth serve as placeholders for the permanent teeth forming below them. Keeping primary teeth healthy helps your child’s permanent teeth develop appropriately. Primary teeth also help your child chew and process healthy foods, promoting good nutrition and eating habits.

It’s important your child receive regular dental recare visits while they have their primary teeth. Schedule your child’s first appointment as soon as you see the first tooth appear and no later than their first birthday. At their first visit at Eggert Family Dentistry, we’ll give your child a complete oral exam, clean their teeth, and discuss teething, pacifier use, thumb-sucking, and tips for keeping your child’s teeth clean and healthy between visits.

Home Care for Primary Teeth

Care of your child’s primary teeth begins before they even start to erupt. After each feeding, wipe your infant’s gums with a clean, damp cloth or gauze. When teeth appear, switch to a child-sized toothbrush to clean the teeth and ask us for a recommendation for an infant-safe toothpaste, generally a fluoride-free toothpaste until your child can fully spit the excess toothpaste into the sink. Begin flossing for your child as soon as two or more teeth touch. Most children cannot floss properly by themselves until age 10 or 11.

Just like permanent teeth, primary teeth are susceptible to decay when they come into contact with sugary, sticky, or acidic substances such as juice, soda, and honey. We recommend you avoid giving your young children sugary drinks and transition your children to small, open cups after their first birthdays. Replace sweet snacks with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

The Eggert Family Dentistry team is passionate about developing healthy habits in young children. Our team members are trained to provide safe, fun, and educational dental appointments for children and their parents. Schedule your child’s first or next dental appointment today.

Thumb-Sucking and Pacifier Use: What You Need to Know about These Habits and Your Child’s Oral Health

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Thumb-sucking and pacifier useThumb and finger-sucking is a natural behavior for infants and young children and can even start before birth. Newborns and infants suck thumbs, fingers, and pacifiers to soothe themselves and feel more secure. Often, this behavior extends into early childhood. When it does, parents often wonder if thumb-sucking or pacifier use could harm their child’s oral health.

A Primer in Tooth Development

An infant’s first two baby, or primary, teeth usually appear around 6 months of age. By age three, toddlers have a full set of primary teeth, which they start losing around age six. Primary teeth save space for permanent teeth that will appear later, especially when your child’s jaw and other facial bones start growing at age four to make room for larger, permanent teeth. Healthy primary teeth are essential for nutrition as they help your child chew food and give the permanent teeth developing below the gum line a healthy start.

Effect of Thumb-Sucking and Pacifier Use on Oral Health

Since the jaw and facial bones do not start to grow and develop until age four and permanent teeth do not appear until age six or later, thumb and finger sucking and pacifier use in the first few years of life are not as likely to cause oral health problems for your child. However, as the bones begin to develop, sucking habits can impact the growth and alignment of your child’s teeth and even change the shape of the roof of your child’s mouth.

Vigorous suckers are more likely to have oral health problems if the habit continues after age four, and aggressive thumb-sucking or pacifier use can potentially change the alignment of your child’s primary teeth. It is common for sucking habits to create an anterior open bite where the front teeth do not contact each other. One difficult to correct side effect of an anterior open bite is often the development of a forward swallowing habit. If you’re concerned about your child’s aggressive thumb-sucking, speak with us at Eggert Family Dentistry.

Breaking the Habit

Thumb-sucking and pacifier use typically comes to an end naturally between the ages of two and four. At that age, children become more engaged in the world around them, sleep less, and can even face peer pressure at preschool to stop thumb-sucking.

But sometimes, kids need a little help breaking the thumb-sucking habit. To protect their oral health, help your child break the habit if they continue to suck their thumb or use a pacifier past age four. Recognize and praise children when you notice they are not sucking their thumb, especially during times that cause stress and anxiety. If your child no longer sucks their thumb while awake but continues to do so while asleep, trying putting a bandage on the thumb or a sock on your child’s hand.

Breaking the thumb-sucking habit can cause anxiety and stress for children and parents alike. You’re not alone in the quest to break the habit. Ask your dentist for help explaining to your children what may happen to their teeth if they continue to suck their thumbs and fingers. Contact Eggert Family Dentistry today to schedule your child’s oral health recare visit.