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Thumbsucking and using a Pacifier

Thumbsucking is a natural reflex for children. Babies feel secure and happy while sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers, or other objects as this may help them to learn and explore about the world around them. Young children may also suck their thumb to soothe themselves and help them fall asleep.

How can My Child’s Teeth be affected by Thumbsucking?

Thumbsucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth, after the permanent teeth have come in. It may also cause changes in the roof of the mouth.

Pacifiers can also affect the teeth the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs, however it is an easier habit to break.

The intensity of the sucking is a factor that determines whether or not dental problems may result. If children rest their thumbs passively in their mouths, they are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs. Some aggressive thumb-suckers may develop problems with their primary (baby) teeth.

When Do Children Stop Sucking Their Thumbs?

Children usually stop sucking by the time permanent front teeth are ready to erupt and this could be between the ages of two and four years. If you notice changes in your child’s primary teeth or are concerned about your child’s thumbsucking, consult your dentist.

How Can I Help My Child Stop Thumbsucking?

  • Praise your child for not sucking the thumb.
  • Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to your child. Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or needing comfort. 
  • Your dentist can explain to your child what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking. Your child might trust information from you, your dentist, or other trusted adults differently, so convey a consistent message.

“Thumbsucking and Pacifier Use”, Mouth Healthy. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/thumbsucking

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

You may have sensitive teeth, if the taste of ice cream or a sip of hot coffee is sometimes a painful experience.

Possible causes include:

  • Tooth decay (cavities)
  • Fractured teeth
  • Worn fillings
  • Gum disease
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Exposed tooth root

In healthy teeth, a layer of enamel protects the crowns of your teeth—the part above the gum line. Under the gum line, a layer called cementum protects the tooth root. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is dentin.

Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum and contains microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes or canals). When dentin loses its protective covering of enamel or cementum these tubules allow heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth. Dentin may also be exposed when gums recede. The result can be hypersensitivity.

Sensitive teeth can be treated. The type of treatment will depend on what is causing the sensitivity. Your dentist may suggest one of a variety of treatments:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste. This contains compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve, and usually requires several applications before the sensitivity is reduced.
  • Fluoride gel. An in-office technique which strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the transmission of sensations.
  • A crown, inlay, or bonding. These may be used to correct a flaw or decay in a tooth that is causing sensitivity.
  • Surgical gum graft. If gum tissue has been lost from the root, this will protect the root and reduce sensitivity.
  • Root canal. If sensitivity is severe and persistent and cannot be treated by other means, your dentist may recommend this treatment to eliminate the problem.

Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing sensitive tooth pain. Ask your dentist if you have any questions about your daily oral hygiene routine or concerns about tooth sensitivity.

“What Causes Sensitive Teeth” American Dental Association. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/s/sensitive-teeth

Why a healthy smile should also be a white smile

A straight and white smile is becoming more sought after than ever before. This mind-set began when we first started to develop an interest in mimicking the results of celebrity cosmetics, also called the ‘Hollywood smile’. 

Today, the price of cosmetic dentistry, like tooth whitening and adult orthodontics has become far more affordable and accessible. It means today’s Hollywood smile is now the ‘Love Island smile’. As a reality show, this creates an image that cosmetic dentistry is obtainable and as ‘normal’ as visiting the hairdresser or barber. 

More of us are taking an interest in searching for ways to improve our own smile. However, while changing the appearance of our teeth sits high on many people’s wish lists, it is important to remember the most important thing – the health of our smile.

A white smile can also be a healthy one

A perfectly white smile may not always be what it seems, and a white smile is not necessarily a healthy one.  White teeth as a result of tooth whitening are still susceptible to tooth decay and disease.

Just as white teeth can improve our self-esteem, suffering from tooth loss can have the opposite effect. Strong evidence suggests that gum disease is linked to wider conditions such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and dementia. The health of our mouth isn’t only important for the state of our smile, it is also incredibly influential for our quality of life.

We need to realize that the health of our teeth is the most important factor, far more important than the color. The good news is that with regular care at your dentist, regular brushing at home, and good dental care habits, you can be assured to maintain a smile that is both healthy and beautiful. 

How to keep a healthy mouth

A good oral health routine at home and regularly visiting our dentist is all we need to have healthy teeth and gums. It involves a few easy steps:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes. This is best done the last thing at night and one other time during the day.
  • Clean in between your teeth daily with interdental brushes or floss.
  • Use mouthwash daily.
  • Chew sugar-free gum in between meals.
  • Cut down on the amount of sugary foods and added sugar in your diet, and also reduce the number of times per day you consume sugary foods by limiting sugar consumption to mealtimes.
  • Visit your dentist as often as they recommend.

By sticking to this basic routine, we can achieve that healthy, beautiful smile. 

Loat, Stephen, “Why a white smile should also be a healthy smile”. Oral Health Foundation.

https://www.dentalhealth.org/blog/why-a-white-smile-should-also-be-a-healthy-smile

Food and drinks that spell trouble for oral health

Acids play an important role in oral health, however when hearing the word ‘acid’ we might be likely to recall the various chemicals we saw in glass bottles in science class at school. We may also think of it as the thing that can cause heartburn and indigestion. 

There are several foods and drinks that are high enough in acid to cause a problem for the health of your teeth. High acidity foods and drinks are the cause of dental erosion and can have serious consequences for the strength of the enamel that surrounds and protects teeth. 

How acid affects the mouth

Acids leave teeth vulnerable to damage by weakening the enamel. Every time we eat or drink anything acidic, the enamel becomes softer for a short while and it loses some of its mineral content. Enamel is the hard, protective coating of our tooth, which protects the sensitive dentine underneath. The dentine underneath is exposed, when the enamel is worn away which may lead to pain and sensitivity.

Naturally, saliva will slowly cancel out this acidity and restore the chemical balance in the mouth. However, if this acid attack happens over and over, it could result in permanent damage to the enamel.

The most common types of acid in food and drink are carbonic acids, citric acids, and phosphoric acids. These are the acids that weaken enamel, leading to dental erosion.

The main culprits when it comes to acidic foods and drinks are the two Fs: Fizz and Fruit.

Fizz

‘Fizziness’ is often a tell-tale sign of an acidic drink. The most common of these are fizzy drinks, sodas, pops, and carbonated drinks. Even the ‘diet’ brands that contain “Fizz” are harmful. 

Some alcohols are also acidic. Beer, cider, prosecco, white wine, and alcopops are all examples of alcoholic drinks that are highly erosive for teeth.

Dr. Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation says: “The best way for us to avoid the damage caused by fizzy drinks is to simply limit our exposure to them.” Try reducing exposure to acidic drinks by eliminating them outside of mealtimes.

Another tip is to swallow the drink quickly, without holding it in your mouth or ‘swishing’ it around. Again, it’s all about reducing the amount of time the teeth are being exposed to acid. Using a straw helps drinks go to the back of the mouth and avoids additional contact with teeth.

Dr. Soha Dattani, Director Scientific & Professional Affairs at GSK Consumer Healthcare says: “The drinks market is full of products which are high in acidity and that can play havoc on the enamel of our teeth. As consumers, this often makes it difficult for us to make healthy choices when choosing our drinks.” This is true whether we’re in a supermarket, a restaurant, attending events, or socializing.

Plain, still water is the best drink for teeth. Milk is also good because it helps to neutralize acids in the mouth.

Fruit

Fruits form an integral part of a healthy balanced diet. However, fruits can encourage dental decay as they contain citric acid.

Citrus fruits are the worst offenders as they have low pH levels, which means they are acidic. The most acidic fruits are lemons, limes, plums, grapes, grapefruits, blueberries, pineapples, oranges, peaches, and tomatoes.

There are a few things we can do to limit the dental damage caused by fruits.

Dr. Nigel Carter adds: “The first thing we can do, much as with fizzy drinks, is to keep them to mealtimes. Consuming fruit at breakfast, lunch, and dinner should provide the appropriate number of daily portions while not putting teeth under unnecessary strain.

Secondly, always try to consume fruit in its whole form and not as fruit juice. While most fruit contains natural sugar, many fruit juices also have added sugar. This is not good for teeth. Whole fruit is also packed full of vitamins, minerals, and fibre, which is often missing or reduced in concentration in fruit juice.

More tips and advice

Erosion of the enamel from acidic foods can cause sensitivity in your teeth- this may be one of the first signs of dental erosion. If you experience sensitivity to temperature or sweet foods, you should schedule an exam with your dentist.  Sensitivity can be treated with special ‘desensitizing’ products to help relieve the symptoms. This may include fluoride gels, rinses, or varnishes.

The symptoms of dental erosion can also be managed at home, while waiting for a dental appointment, with products like toothpastes designed to reduce sensitivity and strengthen enamel.  Your dentist will be able to advise which type of toothpaste is best for you.

Borthwick, Josh, “ What foods and drinks contain acid and why it spells trouble for our oral health”. Oral Health Foundation. https://www.dentalhealth.org/blog/what-foods-and-drinks-contain-acid-and-why-it-spells-trouble-for-our-oral-health

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