10 Tips for Taking Care of Your Little One’s Teeth

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Good dental health starts when your child is very young and actually even before birth. The development of cavities in primary teeth increases the risk of developing cavities in permanent teeth. Cavities can then lead to infection of the teeth and can result in tooth loss. So what are some ways you can set your child up for a bright dental future and help create healthy habits in the early years?

Let’s take a look at 10 great tips for taking care of your little one’s teeth because it’s never too early to start!

    1. Begin the habit of daily brushing even before the first tooth erupts. For a child age 3 or younger, fluoride-free toothpaste the size of a grain of rice or water is all that’s needed. Once your child is 3 you can increase the amount of toothpaste to a pea-sized amount and switch to a children’s fluoride toothpaste.
    2. As soon as your child’s first tooth appears and before your child’s first birthday it’s time to make their first dental visit. This may seem early but a cavity can start to form as soon as a tooth erupts.
    3. Fluoride is important for protecting enamel and keeping teeth strong. In addition to introducing children’s fluoride toothpaste around age 3 be sure your child is drinking a sufficient amount of fluoridated tap water. The American Dental Association states that drinking water with fluoride can reduce the risk of cavities by 25%! Also, once your child knows how to swish and spit, help them incorporate mouthwash into their daily dental routine.
    4. As soon as your child has two teeth that touch introduce the habit of flossing. Flossing with a plastic flossing tool is likely the easiest way to assist them until they learn how to floss independently.
    5. Don’t share utensils with your child or “clean off” their pacifier by putting it in your mouth. Cavity-causing bacteria called Streptococcus mutans is passed on from parents to children through saliva. Even blowing on food to cool it down can pass this bacteria from parent to child. This bacteria increases your child’s likelihood of developing cavities in their baby and adult teeth.
    6. Baby bottle tooth decay – caused by prolonged exposure of your child’s teeth to sugary beverages –is a very real threat to their dental well being. If you must put your child to bed with a bottle opt for fluoridated tap water over a bottle filled with milk or juice.
    7. Sugar is one of enamel’s biggest enemies. Substitute water with fluoride for juice or other sugary beverage choices. Also, limit your child’s intake of fruit juice to 4oz. a day to minimize exposure to sugar.
    8. A pacifier certainly has its place but try and wean your child off of it before the age of 2. Long-term pacifier use can cause crooked teeth and a misshapen palate. We now know that a narrow or vaulted palate due to thumb sucking or pacifier use will cause airway complications throughout childhood and often into adulthood.
    9. It’s ok to incentivize good dental hygiene! Invest in a toothbrush for your child that flashes or plays music, create a star chart or give your child a sticker each time they brush. Also, many parents find that brushing with their child is motivation enough to ensure compliance.
    10. Head it off at the pass and assist or encourage your child to brush, floss and rinse early in the evening – perhaps right after dinner – to avoid bedtime resistance and meltdown.

If you would like to discuss how to implement good dental habits with your child we would love to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us at Eggert Family Dentistry!

Cavities in Children

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Cavities are miserable and, as adults, most of us take every precaution to avoid them. It’s important to be aware that kids are just as susceptible to their presence and their fury. In fact, cavities affect more kids than asthma and diabetes. Let’s take a look at ways that kids develop cavities, how cavities in kids are treated and best yet, how to help your children prevent them.

Paul Casamassimo, D.D.S., professor of pediatric dentistry at Ohio State University College observes, “Children now have much more sugar in their diets at an early age” contributing to their increased propensity to develop cavities. Sugar, when introduced to your mouth, causes bacteria in plaque to produce acids that war against tooth enamel. Plaque is sticky and holds these acids against your teeth causing the enamel to break down over time. This is when cavities form.

Another culprit of cavities in kids is their lack of exposure to fluoride. In our society today, kids and adults alike consume less fluoride-induced tap water in favor of bottled water, which often does not contain fluoride. Fluoride helps to strengthen teeth and wards off enamel erosion.

Probably a lesser-known but equally prevalent cause of cavities in kids is a bacteria called mutans streptococcus. When babies are born, their mouths are free from these harmful mutans. This bacteria is often introduced, however, from mom or dad. When babies put their fingers in mom or dad’s mouth, eat off the same spoon or share a toothbrush, they easily transfer it to their baby. This child then grows up with an increased likelihood of developing cavities in his/her baby and adult teeth. In fact, Dr. Burton Edelstein, D.D.S., founder of Children’s Dental Health Project, states that, “80% of all cavities occur in just 25% of kids,” which speaks to the presence of this hereditary bacteria.

Cavities or dental caries are essentially holes in teeth that can, with time, grow bigger and deeper. If you notice a dark spot on your child’s tooth you can safely assume a cavity is forming.

In most cases, treatment consists of removing the decaying part of the tooth and replacing it with a filling. Fillings come in a variety of materials. Most often we are using the white composite material with children and adults. Cavities in baby teeth are treated just as seriously as cavities in adult teeth since baby teeth hold space for future adult teeth. When baby teeth fall out prematurely or have to be pulled because of excessive decay, the child is at risk for improper spacing or positioning of adult teeth, making him/her a more likely candidate for braces down the road.

There are numerous precautions you can take as a parent to minimize your child’s risk of cavities.

• Take your child in for regular dental checkups starting at the age of 1. This cannot be emphasized enough and pediatricians still aren’t always reminding parents even though the American Academy of Pediatrics has had this guideline for years.

• As you’re able, wipe your baby’s gums with a damp washcloth after eating. Even breast milk and formula contain acid-inducing sugars. As soon as your baby gets the first tooth begin a daily brushing routine.

• In addition to thorough daily brushing and once your child has two teeth next to each other, introduce flossing. At the age of 2-3, when your children are able to spit, and not swallow their toothpaste, introduce children’s toothpaste with fluoride. Talk to us at Eggert Family Dentistry about protective fluoride varnish or sealants for your child’s teeth. Many insurance companies cover these preventative measures.

• Don’t share utensils or toothbrushes with your children. If you suspect you have decay-causing bacteria in your mouth, which nearly all adults do to some extent, consider an antibiotic mouthwash treatment that can reduce bacteria levels.

If you’re concerned about your child’s smile and want to ensure proper care we would love to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact Eggert Family Dentistry with any questions you may have!

Making Your Child’s Early Visits a Success

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Many children experience varying levels of apprehension when it comes to visiting the dentist. Fortunately, there are a number of things parents can do to minimize anxious thoughts and help prepare their children for successful early visits.

Perhaps you had a negative experience at the dentist when you were a child or are ill at ease when it comes to regular recare visits. It’s crucial to set those anxieties aside in order to set your child up for a successful first experience. It is often our first experiences that determine our perspective on all subsequent experiences and this is certainly true when it comes to dentistry.

Maybe your child was young enough at their first visit that they don’t remember much or anything about it. Now, however, your child is a toddler and has a million questions! One thing to consider is scheduling a tour of our office beforehand. It will give your child something concrete to anticipate – your child can meet Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff as well as our team of assistants and hygienists that will be working with your child. This helps so there will be a familiar face at the next visit. It will also give your child an opportunity to role play a bit. They can go for a ride in the dentist’s chair and see a lot of the dental equipment which may help answer questions and calm pre-visit nerves.

Talk with your kids in an age-appropriate way about why it’s important that we take care of our teeth and how the dentists at Eggert Family Dentistry help us do that. It might also be helpful to talk with your child about what will happen at the upcoming visit. If Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff is going to count their teeth, your child might enjoy practicing counting his or her teeth with you in the mirror at home. Keep it fun and positive! Again, role playing is a great way to put a child at ease about something new.

There are a multitude of resources available that help prepare a child for a visit to the dentist. Look for books on the subject at your local library. Search for apps, shows and songs that help familiarize your child with the subject. Browse our patient resource page which includes a download on how to have a successful dental visit with your child.

You have an important role in your child’s dental health and can help lay a solid foundation for lifelong dental wellness. We would love to partner with you in making this process a success! Call Eggert Family Dentistry today to schedule an appointment!

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.