Friday, August 31, 2012

Pediatric dentistry isn’t just for kids

When your children are small, going to a pediatric dentist can be a great way to relieve their anxiety about the dentist. Pediatric dentists are trained to meet the specific needs of children, which means they often have more success relating to their patients and making the process as smooth as possible. But what happens when your children turn into teenagers? According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, teenagers should continue to see their pediatric dentist through adolescence.

Pediatric dentists also specialize in teen dental issues, and it is important for your teenager to continue seeing a dentist who knows his or her history. Teenagers’ mouths are still rapidly changing, which makes it even more critical that they continue regular appointments at the dentist. In addition, adult teeth emerging from the surface are susceptible to decay, and a pediatric dentist can monitor the growing process to ensure your teen’s mouth stays healthy as she transitions into adulthood. The Academy also emphasizes the importance of instilling good oral hygiene habits in teens, who by now are making their own dietary and hygiene choices.

A pediatric dentist can help guide them in these choices and will press upon them the importance of maintaining healthy teeth. Talk to a pediatric dentist in your True Care Advantage dental plan and ask about promoting the oral health of your teenager. He or she will become a great resource and can help ensure your teen enters adulthood with beautiful teeth.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Keeping your baby’s teeth healthy

Even though your baby may have only one or two teeth, it is critical that you start establishing healthy dental practices at a young age. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, once a child begins eating or drinking anything other than breast milk, any teeth above the gums are at risk for decay. The Academy recommends not allowing a child to fall asleep with a bottle of anything except water and, specifically, avoiding allowing a child to drink juice out of a bottle. In regard to thumb sucking, it is important to take your child to a pediatric dentist if this habit is continued longer than age 3.

Long-term thumb sucking can lead to crooked teeth and bite problems, so make sure this habit is ended before any damage can be done. Finally, the Academy recommends starting to clean your baby’s mouth and teeth as soon as possible. Even if a baby does not yet have any teeth, parents can still use either a soft toothbrush made for infants or a cloth to clean the baby’s gums. Once teeth erupt, parents should use a soft-bristled toothbrush (in an age-appropriate size) to clean the child’s teeth twice a day with a tiny bit of toothpaste. By starting your child on a path of good oral health as an infant, you can set her up for a lifetime of healthy teeth. True Care Advantage will help you achieve this goal without breaking the bank.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Study shows dental implants are safe substitutes for natural teeth

When a person loses a tooth, either through an accident or poor oral health, it is often replaced with a dental implant. Dental implants are made to look like a natural tooth, allowing patients to continue to enjoy the same appearance and functioning they did before the loss. Although previous research led dental practitioners to believe that implants can disrupt the tissue and bone structure in a patient’s mouth, a study published in the Journal of Periodontology has shed new light on the implants.

Researchers found that most of a patient’s bone remodeling occurred after the implant was placed and before the final prosthesis was inserted. Further, they found that the bone changed very little in the following five years. This is significant because it solidifies the use of dental implants as safe substitutes for natural teeth. Talk to a dentist on your True Care Advantage plan if you think you may be a good candidate for dental implants; implants can restore your confidence in the way you look, speak, and eat.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Does your child need braces?

One of the benefits of taking your child to see the dentist regularly is that he or she can monitor your child’s teeth and alert you to the need for orthodontic treatment. Parents can also look for warning signs so they are prepared to ask the dentist about any problematic teeth or mouth structures. The American Association of Orthodontists suggests all children should be evaluated by the age of 7 to determine the need or timeline for orthodontic treatment. It is important to talk to your child’s dentist about your options if you notice any of the following signs:
  • Crowded/overlapped teeth or highly separated teeth
  • Upper and lower teeth do not touch when chewing
  • Upper front teeth fall behind the bottom teeth when chewing
  • Upper front teeth extend too far over the bottom teeth when chewing, or protrude at an odd angle
  • Lower jaw shifts to one side when chewing
In addition, if your child still sucks his or her thumb after age 6 or so, there may be an increased risk for crooked teeth. The same goes for people who experience early or late loss of baby teeth and consistently breathe through their mouths. Ask your child’s dentist if it’s time for an orthodontic review. By staying aware of these signs and communicating with your dentist, you can make sure your child gets the treatment she needs at the correct time.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ways to Drink your way to healthier teeth

It’s National Dairy Month, and what better time is there to be reminded of the benefits of dairy for your teeth? Calcium is essential for healthy teeth, particularly during childhood when children’s teeth are still forming. Studies have shown that drinking milk and consuming other dairy products help teeth stay strong throughout adolescence and adulthood.

It is also thought that eating dairy products – especially cheese – may help prevent cavities because it prevents bacteria on the teeth from turning sugar into harmful acids. This is important because it stops the acids from eating into the teeth and forming cavities. In addition, studies show that dairy products can also add minerals back into teeth and prevent further mineral loss, which is essential to healthy, strong teeth. By incorporating dairy products into your children’s diet now, you can start a lifelong habit of good nutrition and healthy teeth. Drink up!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Causes of a painful tongue

People often think about the dentist as a professional that deals with teeth. In reality, however, dentists are concerned with the entire mouth – including your tongue. For this reason, he or she may talk to you about the appearance of your tongue and why your tongue affects your overall health. One of the biggest problems people experience with their tongue is having it be sore and bumpy.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, there are several causes of a sore tongue, including trauma, canker sores, smoking, and oral cancer. The most obvious cause, trauma, can be a result of biting your tongue or burning it on something that’s too hot. When this happens, the tongue may continue to be sore until the injury heals. Smoking, however, is a more permanent habit that causes damage through irritation; people who smoke frequently may find that their tongue feels unpleasant.

Canker sores – or mouth ulcers – can also cause temporary pain and bumps on your tongue. No one knows what causes these sores, but stress is thought to be a trigger. Finally, although not common, sores/bumps that do not go away after a couple weeks could be a sign of oral cancer. Talk to your dentist about any tongue abnormalities you notice so you can get started on a treatment plan if necessary. By taking care of your tongue, you can improve your overall health.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Did you know? Mothers can pass cavity-causing bacteria to their babies

Every time a mother shares a utensil with her baby, she could be putting the baby at risk for tooth decay. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, babies are not born with the harmful bacteria that can lead to cavities; instead, they get it from their mothers. This transfer often happens when moms put baby spoons in their mouths before feeding their child or allow a baby to put its fingers in their mouth. Mothers who have a history of dental problems are most likely to pass harmful bacteria to their children because they have an increased number in their own mouths.

The AAPD suggests that dads can also pass bacteria to their children, but not at the rate that mothers do. Moms who have not had cavities since their teens or earlier are less likely to put their children at risk, but it is still important to protect babies’ teeth. Studies have shown that infants who are exposed to tooth-decaying bacteria are much more likely to get cavities throughout their lifetime than those who do not get the bacteria until later in life. For more helpful tips about keeping your child’s teeth healthy, schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist on your True Care Advantage plan.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tips for Cleaning your child’s teeth

Although a baby’s first visit to the dentist should be by his or her first birthday, parents must also be vigilant about their child’s oral health at home. Do not wait until your child has multiple teeth before establishing a routine. At the first emergence of a tooth, parents should keep it clean by gently rubbing it with a terry cloth washcloth or clean piece of gauze once a day. As more teeth grow in, parents may begin to use a soft-bristled baby toothbrush. Most babies that are at least five months old can use the infant toothpastes sold at drugstores.

For young children, remember to never put more than a small smear of toothpaste on the toothbrush, as swallowing too much can be dangerous. If your child is too young to brush his or her teeth independently, it may be helpful to sit behind the child and tilt his or her mouth back toward you so you can see every section of the teeth and gums. The British Dental Health Foundation suggests brushing in small circular movements and focusing on one area at a time. In addition, it is important to remember to brush behind the teeth as well as on the gums. Although most children ages 4 and older can start brushing their teeth on their own, parents should supervise the routine until at least age 7 to make sure the child is brushing thoroughly.

If you have difficulty getting your kids to brush their teeth, try establishing a routine that is consistent and fun. Regular, direct praise can go a long way in encouraging children to keep their teeth clean and healthy. For more information about oral hygiene and young children, talk to a pediatric dentist on your True Care Advantage dental plans. He or she can help you find a routine that fits your family and give you advice to keep your children’s smiles sparkling.

Monday, August 13, 2012

How do cochlear implants work?

If you’ve been using a hearing aid but still have difficulty hearing or communicating, cochlear implants may be a great option. Unlike hearing aids, cochlear implants “bypass the damaged inner ear and deliver electrical stimulation directly to the hearing nerve” (American Academy of Audiology). For this reason, cochlear implants are able to benefit people whose ears no longer respond to the amplification offered by hearing aids. Cochlear implants consist of both an external and internal part.

The internal part is surgically implanted during an outpatient procedure and cannot be seen from the outside; the external part is similar in appearance to a hearing aid that wraps behind the ear. This external part is fitted and programmed by your audiologist. According to the Academy of Audiology, everyone responds differently to cochlear implants. Although it does take time to get used to listening with the implant, many people are able to use the phone and even listen to music after a few months. Most implant users also communicate with others and understand speech well.

People who receive cochlear implants generally work with a variety of specialists throughout the procedure and trial period, including a speech-language pathologist, who can help restore a sense of normality in everyday conversation. If you have any questions about cochlear implants or think you could be a good candidate for the procedure, talk to an audiologist on your True Care Advantage hearing care plan. He or she will evaluate your hearing and help you determine if implants are right for your lifestyle and individual needs.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Effects of cancer treatments on oral health

Most cancer patients who undergo radiation therapy are aware of the risks and side effects associated with the treatment, but not all are familiar with its effects on oral health. According to the American Dental Association, approximately one-third of Americans diagnosed with cancer suffer from painful oral complications after receiving radiation therapy. Radiation in the head and neck regions of the body can cause patients to develop dry mouth, hypersensitive teeth, rapid tooth decay, and lesions.

They may also experience difficulty swallowing. Although most of these effects are caused by radiation, chemotherapy may also result in damage to the oral cavity. To prevent these effects, the ADA suggests that a patient’s oncologist and dentist work together before and during treatments. Patients undergoing cancer treatments should typically brush their teeth gently twice a day and may need to use a special saliva-replacement product to combat dry mouth. An increase in the frequency of fluoride treatments may also be recommended. The most important thing for patients to remember is to maintain constant and proactive communication with their dentists and oncologists.

Both health professionals care about their patients’ well-being and can benefit from coordinating their treatments. If you are anticipating cancer treatments in the near future, talk to your True Care Advantage dental plans dentist for individualized advice and recommendations. He or she will perform a full oral examination and work with you to maintain your healthy smile.