Your Child's First Dental Visit

Your Child’s First Dental Visit

At our Dental Centers in Freeman and Parkston our goal is for every dental visit to be a good one.  We understand that setting the right expectations can help us meet that goal.

When it comes to kids, not knowing what to expect can generate fear, anxiety and/or misbehavior.  Here is what to expect from your child’s first dental visit.

When to Make the Appointment

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children have a dental evaluation by their first birthday or within 6 months of getting their first tooth, whichever comes first.  The purpose of a dental visit this early in life is not to perform dental treatment.  Education is the main purpose. 

If your child is already past this recommended age, do not worry!  Simply make an appointment as soon as possible.  The visit will vary a little based on the child’s age.  The purpose remains the same.

Educating the Child

If your child is an infant or toddler, the education comes in the form of the experience.  The child learns from the senses of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch.  He will see the smiling face of the dentist and his staff and learn what the dental tools look like.  He will hear the normal sounds of a dental office.  He will taste and smell the toothpaste or dental cleaning paste used by the dental hygienist.  And he will feel the gentle touch of the dentist evaluating his mouth.

It is important for parents to know that it is normal and acceptable for a small child to cry.  The dentist or hygienist may use that as an opportunity to look inside the child’s mouth and see as many teeth as possible. 

Educating the Parent

Even more important than the child’s education is the parents’.  The cause of most preventable problems that arise with children’s teeth is a simple lack of information and education.

A Child’s Oral Hygiene

At this dental visit, every parent receives instruction on proper oral hygiene of the child’s teeth and tips on various ways to accomplish this.  Keep in mind that not every technique or trick works on every child.  You may have to try several different approaches before you find the one that works best for you and your child. 

An example of a unique approach to flossing a toddler’s teeth is this:  Sit on the floor cross-legged.  Have your child lay down with his head in your lap and look straight up at you.  When the child opens his mouth, you will be able to easily see and access the teeth for flossing. 

This technique also works well with brushing.  If you use this technique for brushing, use only a pea-sized dot of toothpaste and no water.

Oral hygiene for baby teeth is just as important as it is for permanent teeth.  Do not make it an optional part of the bedtime routine.  This link has some great songs to sing while brushing and flossing your child’s teeth.  We know it can be a chore; do your best to make it a fun one.

A Child’s Nutrition

At the first dental visit, parents are taught how to help prevent cavities with good nutritional choices.  Your dentist will ask questions about current nutritional habits and eating patterns.  The most common error parents make is sending their child to bed with a sippy cup full of juice or milk.  The only thing a child should have access to overnight is water.

A Child’s Habits

Your dentist will assess risk for damage to the teeth and developing jaws by any habits like thumb-sucking or pacifier use.  For more information on these habits, please read our previous blog.

A Child’s Growth and Development

At this visit, the dentist evaluates the teeth and jaws for proper growth and development.  There is a pretty wide range of “normal” when it comes to teeth coming into the mouth.  The dentist’s objective is to detect any abnormalities in a child’s development as early as possible so that you can plan for the future.

For example, your dentist would inform you if there appears to be a deficiency in the growth of the jaws that would require early orthodontic treatment.  We want you to be as prepared as possible for any future dental work.

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 Dental X-rays

Dental x-rays are only taken on children under the age of 5 if there is evidence of a problem.  An x-ray is necessary if a large cavity is present with the risk of spreading infection into the jawbone.  Any injury to the teeth also requires an x-ray.

Around age 5-6 years, we take dental x-rays to evaluate the proper development of permanent teeth underneath the baby tooth roots.

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Fluoride

Professional fluoride treatments are proven to reduce a child’s risk for developing cavities.  We recommend fluoride as a preventive treatment for most children because we strongly believe in prevention.

If you have questions about professional fluoride treatments, please ask Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex, Dr. Serena or your dental hygienist at your next visit.  We are more than happy to discuss the benefits of fluoride and the reasons we strongly recommend it for children.

Is it Time for Your Child’s First Dental Visit?

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to set up a happy visit for your child with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell and our fabulous dental hygienists.  They will get you and your child started with a great dental experience.

Are Baby Teeth Really That Important?

Are Baby Teeth Really That Important?

Yes!

We hear this question a lot.  Some parents tend to be less concerned about a child’s baby teeth because they know these teeth will eventually fall out.  This blog will explore all of the reasons baby teeth DO matter and need to be healthy for the years they are in your child’s mouth.

What are Baby Teeth?

Also called primary teeth, baby teeth are the first set of teeth a child gets in his or her mouth.  Other names for baby teeth include deciduous teeth and milk teeth.  There are 20 baby teeth in all, and they enter the mouth from age 6 months through 2 years. 

Baby teeth are fully developed teeth, with the same physical makeup as permanent teeth.  They have nerves and blood vessels on the inside, and they are covered in enamel.

Baby teeth can feel pain, they can get cavities, and they show damage from teeth grinding.

Why Do Humans Have Baby Teeth?

It is all about growth.  A baby’s jaws are too small to hold the full set of permanent teeth.  This initial set of teeth allows a baby to begin chewing and speaking as the jaw continues to grow.

Without baby teeth, a child would not be able to obtain the nutrition necessary for his or her overall growth.  Baby teeth also help in guiding the growth of the jaws.

What are the Purposes of Baby Teeth?

Baby teeth are important for all of the following reasons. Even just one of these functions is reason enough to take great care of your child’s baby teeth. 

 

  • Chewing – A child can only live on milk, formula, and baby food for so long. In order to receive the proper nutrition, he or she has to begin eating solid foods. This is only possible with healthy teeth to chew those foods.

  • Speaking – Many of the letter sounds required for speaking involve interactions between the tongue, lips and teeth. Without teeth, a child cannot learn to make these sounds. Often, the speech habits formed in early childhood persist for many years and require speech therapy to correct.

  • Jaw Growth – A proper bite relationship between the upper and lower teeth is vital to normal, healthy growth of the upper and lower jaws. When teeth are lost and shift into inappropriate positions, it can negatively influence how the jaws grow.

  • Formation of Permanent Teeth – Permanent form from the cells in baby teeth. If a baby tooth is missing, the permanent tooth will not develop. If a baby tooth is infected or injured, the developing permanent tooth is often damaged. This damage may result in an abnormal shape or weakened enamel on the growing permanent tooth, which would cause an unsightly appearance and a higher risk for cavities.

  • Holding Space for Permanent Teeth – Healthy baby teeth maintain the health of the jawbone and keep space available for permanent teeth to come in. If a baby tooth is lost from infection or injury, the teeth around it begin to shift into that space. This results in a lack of space for the underlying permanent tooth to come into its correct position in the jaw. It leads to crooked, crowded teeth, which will require years of braces to fix.

 

How are Baby Teeth Different from Permanent Teeth?

Baby teeth are not meant to last forever.  Their purposes are temporary, lasting only until the permanent teeth replace them in the arch.  Because they are only temporary, they are slightly different from permanent teeth.

Baby teeth have thinner enamel.  The layer of enamel covering a baby tooth is about half the thickness of that covering a permanent tooth.  Thin enamel makes it easier for bacteria to penetrate through and cause cavities to spread very quickly.

Baby teeth roots dissolve under pressure.  The baby teeth fall out at just the right time by this mechanism.  The underlying permanent tooth begins to push toward the oral cavity and put pressure on the roots of the baby tooth.  As the roots dissolve, there is nothing holding the baby tooth in the jawbone, and it becomes loose. 

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Other Reasons to Keep Baby Teeth Healthy

Big cavities on baby teeth cause toothaches.  Babies and young children may experience or communicate that they are experiencing pain differently than an adult does.  You should never assume that a decayed baby tooth is not painful.

Infections on baby teeth can spread to the brain or bloodstream!  These can be extremely dangerous situations.  If there is visible swelling in or near your child’s mouth, seek emergency care immediately!

Baby teeth with dental problems require dental treatment.  By keeping them healthy, you can prevent the need for expensive and traumatic dental visits for your child.

Do You Have More Questions about Baby Teeth?

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to set up a consultation with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell for an evaluation of your child’s baby teeth.  They will discuss with you all you should know about caring for your child and his or her teeth.

Sugar and Its Effects on Teeth

Sugar and Its Effects on Teeth

It is commonly known and well supported by scientific research that sugar is bad for teeth.  When dentists say “sugar”, most people think of soft drinks and candy.  There are many other sources of sugar that are damaging to teeth, which often get overlooked.  This blog will address why sugar is bad for teeth, which specific sugars are especially dangerous, and how you can fight sugar’s effects on your child’s teeth.

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Why is Sugar Bad for Teeth?

Our mouths are full of bacteria.  Some bacteria are good, and some are bad.  The bad bacteria are those which feed on sugar to produce dangerous acids. (Some people have higher levels of bad bacteria, which gives them a higher risk for cavities!)

Bad Bacteria + Sugar = Acid --> Enamel Damage --> Cavities

Which Specific Sugars are Bad for Teeth?

If you have taken part in any low-carb or no-carb diets, you probably know the important differences between simple and complex carbohydrates.  Nutrition experts emphasize the way these carbs are digested and how they affect your metabolism.

The distinction between simple and complex carbohydrates is also important for your teeth. 

Simple carbohydrates are short-chain sugars that bad bacteria in the mouth quickly and easily break down.  Complex carbohydrates are long, complex chains of sugar molecules that are more difficult for bacteria to break down.

Simple carbohydrates make it easy for bacteria to cause cavities.  Complex carbs are also a sugar source for bacteria, but they take longer to digest, slowing the cavity process down enough for you to intervene and stop them. 

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Examples of simple carbs include the sugar in soft drinks, candy, cookies and other baked sweets, cereal, fruit juices and milk.  Complex carbohydrates include whole grains, starchy vegetables (like potatoes), green vegetables, and beans/peas.

Complex carbs are better for your teeth than simple carbs, but there is still a risk for cavities.  Often, complex carbs are sticky and become stuck in or between the teeth.  If they are not quickly cleaned from the teeth, the bacteria have more time to break them down into simple sugars and cause cavities.

How You Can Fight Sugar’s Effects on Teeth

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1. Limit intake of simple carbohydrates – Cutting simple sugars from your or your child’s diet is a sure way to lower cavity risk.  Sodas have zero nutritional value, so eliminate them completely.  Instead of sticky candies, switch to chocolate.  Chocolate’s fat content gives it a lower risk of causing cavities.

2. Stimulate saliva – Saliva is our body’s best defense against cavities!  Saliva has a slightly basic pH, which neutralizes the acid produced by bad bacteria.  There are two great ways to stimulate saliva to fight sugar:

  • Limit simple sugars to mealtime only! When you eat a meal, saliva production increases. A soda with lunch is less likely to cause a cavity than a soda sipped throughout the afternoon.

  • Chew sugar-free gum. By chewing gum after eating or drinking sugar, you stimulate saliva. Ice Cubes is our favorite cavity-fighting gum. Give a piece to your child after any sugary snack to lower cavity risk.

 

3. Practice great oral hygiene.  Do not let any sugars stay on the teeth.  You can greatly reduce cavity risk by removing any sugary food debris from your tooth surfaces. 

  • Brush after sticky and/or sugary snacks.

  • Floss, if possible, after snacking. If not, floss every night before bed.

  • Use a fluoride containing mouthrinse after brushing and flossing.

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!

Teaching Your Children to Take Care of Their Teeth

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Teaching Your Children to Take Care of Their Teeth

One of the most important aspects of parenting is teaching your children how to take care of themselves. You teach them to make good choices so that they can be healthy.  In the beginning, you do a task for them until they can do it themselves.  Then you supervise their efforts until you trust that they are competent and consistent in accomplishing the task.  At that point, you can give them the independence to take care of themselves without your intervention.

As with all issues in child development, every child grows and matures at his or her own unique pace.  Rather than looking for your child to perform certain tasks at a certain age, use milestones to tell you when it is time to move from demonstration to supervision and from supervision to delegation of independence.

In dentistry, our most common example of using a milestone is this: your child should not brush his teeth alone until he can easily tie his own shoes.

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Start Early

In order to set the right expectations for your child and oral hygiene, start early. 

How early?  As soon as the first tooth appears in your baby’s mouth!

Begin brushing each tooth with an infant toothbrush or a soft washcloth.  Cleaning your child’s teeth is something he or she should expect as part of your daily routine.  The earlier you start, the easier it is for the child to accept.  The earlier you begin brushing and flossing your child’s teeth, the less likely they are to fight you and resist the process.

Easy Oral Hygiene Techniques:

One of the easiest ways to brush and floss a child’s teeth is to sit cross-legged on the floor and have the child lay down with his head in your lap.  You should be able to look straight down into the child’s open mouth.  Using a very small amount of fluoride-containing toothpaste and NO water, gently brush every exposed surface of his teeth. 

An alternative technique is to have your child stand on a small stool so that their head is just above your waist.  With both of you facing the bathroom mirror, stand behind the child and have her look up and rest her head against your stomach.  Again, you should be able to look straight down into the child’s mouth and visualize all of the teeth.

Use either of these positions to floss any of your child’s teeth that touch each other.  Teeth with small gaps do not have to be flossed. 

Make It Fun

While you are brushing or flossing, it helps to count or sing a song to entertain and/or distract the child.  The American Dental Association has several fun tooth brushing songs here.

If you have multiple children, you can make the oral hygiene routine your special one-on-one time with each child. 

With multiple children, games or competitions can make it fun.  Use plaque disclosing tablets to have a contest of who does the best job brushing.

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Set a Good Example

Brush and floss your own teeth in front of your children as often as possible.  Show them that it is a normal part of your bedtime routine.  Kids are much better at following examples than strictly doing as they are told. 

It is important to teach your children to have an overall attitude toward oral hygiene that is positive and healthy.  One of the best and easiest ways to train this attitude is to model it in your actions and attitudes toward your own oral hygiene.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.  If your children see that you do not value your own oral hygiene, they will not believe that it is important for them either.

Don’t Make It Optional

Make every effort to never miss brushing and flossing your child’s teeth.  It is not optional.  Do not ever give your child the impression that they have a choice on whether or not to brush before bedtime. 

The problems that occur from improper oral hygiene in a child can be serious. They can also be prevented with good oral hygiene and good food and drink choices.

Need Help?

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or 605-928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule a consultation with one of our fabulous dental hygienists.  She will show you tips and techniques on brushing and flossing your child's teeth as easily as possible.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

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Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Also known as bottle rot or early childhood caries, baby bottle tooth decay is a condition in which very young children experience moderate to severe cavities in their baby teeth.  As the name implies, this condition is caused by an improper use of baby bottles.

How Does a Baby Get Cavities?

Cavities are caused by bacteria.  Most children acquire cavity-causing bacteria from their parents.  Bacteria are transmitted from the parents’ mouths to the child’s by sharing a spoon and kissing.

The real danger occurs when these bacteria are exposed to sugar.  Baby bottle tooth decay arises when the baby drinks a bottle of any liquid which contains sugar.  The most common culprits are fruit juices and milk.  Even milk contains sugar.

As the teeth are exposed to sugar-containing liquids, the bacteria ingest the sugar and create a by-product that is very acidic.  The acid by-product weakens and softens baby teeth enamel.  The enamel on baby teeth is much thinner than that on permanent teeth.  This allows cavities to spread much more quickly on a baby tooth than on a permanent tooth. 

There are two important factors in the cavity process: 1) the amount of sugar the teeth are exposed to, and2) the amount of time the teeth are exposed to sugar

  1. Amount of Sugar - Fruit juice contains the highest quantity of sugar (besides sodas) and is very damaging to baby teeth.  Soft drinks and sodas should NEVER be given to a child.  Milk contains small amounts of sugar, too.  If left in contact with the teeth long enough, even plain milk will cause tooth decay.
  2. Amount of Time - Even a small amount of sugar can cause a cavity if it stays in contact with the teeth for a prolonged period of time.  Any sugar-containing drink to which the child has continuous access (such as an overnight bottle) creates a higher risk for cavities.  

 

Upper front teeth are at the highest risk for baby bottle tooth decay because they are continually bathed in the liquid as the child drinks.  Other teeth may be affected as well.  The cavities initially appear as dark spots, small holes, or chips in the teeth. 

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How Do I Prevent Cavities for My Baby?

  • Limit bottle time - A bottle’s purpose is to provide nutrition for your baby.  It is not a pacifier or soothing device.  
  • It should never be used to put a baby to sleep.  If a baby falls asleep while drinking from a bottle, remove the bottle and replace it with a pacifier.
  • Limit bottle contents – Baby bottles should contain onlybaby formula, breast milk, or water.  A baby bottle should NEVER be filled with fruit juice, soda, sugar water, or milk.  Not only do they all contain sugar; they do not provide the baby with any proper nutrition.
  • Water only overnight – If a bottle is given to the child overnight, water is the only liquid that will not increase the risk for cavities.  Water is the only thing that contains zero sugar and zero acid.  This rule goes for sippy cups, too.  Toddlers should never go to bed with anything except water!
  • Oral hygiene – Even babies need oral hygiene.  As soon as a tooth is visible, you should clean it with an extra-soft baby toothbrush or a washcloth.  Brush your baby’s teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice.  The brushing routine teaches your child good oral hygiene practices as they learn and grow.  The fluoride strengthens their baby teeth to resist cavities.

 

 

    What if My Baby Already Has Cavities?

    Baby teeth have many important functions.  If they get cavities, they need to be treated so that your child can chew and speak properly.  Cavities in baby teeth, if not treated, will progress to abscesses, which are serious dental infections that can spread.  These infections can put your baby’s life in danger!

    If you see cavities in your baby’s teeth, the first step is to schedule a dental appointment.  Your dentist will evaluate the teeth and prescribe the appropriate treatment.  Most small children with extensive decay are treated by pediatric dentists with the use of sedation. 

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    The most important part of this dental visit is the tips and instructions you, as the parent, will receive to help prevent any future cavities from developing.

    More Questions about Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

    Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell! They can answer all of your questions about cavities in young children and advise you on how to proceed.

    Interdisciplinary Dentistry

    Interdisciplinary Dentistry

    You’ve probably heard the saying, “Jack of all trades”; maybe you didn’t know that the rest of that phrase is “ . . . master of none”.  The theory behind this phrase is that a person can be competent in many tasks, but is usually limited to excellence in just a few.  At our dental centers in Freeman, Parkston, and Viborg, we believe that this phrase applies to dentistry.  Because our goal is for each patient to receive excellent care in every realm, we cooperate with medical and dental specialists to accomplish interdisciplinary dentistry. 

    We understand that, as a patient, it is more convenient to have all of your dental care performed in one location.  However, when it comes to a choice between convenience and excellence, we will always choose excellence.  When Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex and Dr. Serena create a customized treatment plan for their patients, they considers what type of practitioner will best perform each individual procedure.  These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, much like a primary care physician may treat a case of high blood pressure in his or her office, but refer out a complicated cardiovascular issue to a cardiologist.

    Dental Specialties

    The American Dental Association recognizes nine dental specialties in dentistry.  These specialties are characterized by residency programs, which add several years to their education, and certifying boards, which recognize their limitation of practice to a specific specialty.  The nine recognized dental specialties are:

    1. Dental Public Health – promotion of oral health and disease prevention

    2. Endodontics – root canals and surgeries related to infections originating within the tooth

    3. Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology – diagnosis of abnormal lesions and diseases of the oral cavity

    4. Oral & Maxillofacial Radiology – interpretation of images of the head & neck complex, including x-rays and cone beam computed tomography

    5. Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery – surgical intervention ranging from simple extraction of teeth to complex realignment of the upper and lower jaws

    6. Orthodontics – realignment of teeth and bite relationships

    7. Pediatric Dentistry – dentistry for children

    8. Periodontics – treatment of diseases and conditions of the supporting structures of the teeth: bones, ligaments, and gum tissue

    9. Prosthodontics – restoration of missing tooth and jaw structures

    Many people are surprised to learn that there are currently no recognized specialties for TMJ, cosmetic dentistry, and dental implants.  Advertising claims can be misleading in these areas. 

    Why Do Some Dentists Pull Wisdom Teeth, Place Implants or Do Root Canals?

    Many general dentists have practiced long enough to determine which procedures they are able to perform with excellence, rather than just being competent.  They will spend more time in continuing education learning the procedures that they love, and will consistently improve their skill in specific techniques.  This is why some general dentists are able to provide excellent treatment in areas another general dentist would refer to a specialist.

    On the other hand, you may find that a dentist who used to do root canals in his office no longer does.  It is likely that this dentist has found he is not able to efficiently provide the very best root canal for his patients, and they will receive a more positive long-term success rate by seeing an endodontist for that specific procedure. 

    Medical Specialists

    As we discussed in a previous blog on how oral health affects your overall health, there are many connections between the mouth and the rest of the body.  As we continue to gather more information about your head & neck with the 3D imaging and continued learning in dentistry, we are better able to recognize these connections and advise you to see the appropriate medical specialist.

    The Importance of the General Dentist

    In cases where interdisciplinary dentistry is necessary, the general dentist plays an important role.  In addition to performing certain procedures in the care of the patient, the general dentist is instrumental in organizing and coordinating the flow of communication and treatment among the various specialists.  

    If you have a complicated dental history and think you need interdisciplinary dentistry, call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell! Their commitment to excellent care will ensure you see the proper doctor for each individual procedure your treatment requires.

    Is Your Mouth Making You Sick?

    Is your mouth making you sick?

    How Oral Health Impacts Systemic Health

    At our Dental Centers in Freeman, Parkston and Viborg, we take healthcare seriously.  While we are specifically concerned with our patients’ oral health, we acknowledge its role in a person’s overall health.  Unfortunately, the mouth has always been treated by a realm of healthcare (dentistry), which has historically been kept separate from general medicine.  For this reason, some people are under the impression that the mouth is therefore independent and unrelated to the rest of the body. 

    This is a dangerous myth!

    What systemic issues are connected with the mouth?

    In 2000, the surgeon general released a report called “Oral Health in America”.  The purpose of this report was to inform and educate the nation about oral health, its prevalence in our nation, and how it affects a person’s overall health.  This report was based on a review of published scientific literature and is still considered the authority on the link between oral health and systemic health.

    There are many links between the mouth and the rest of the body.  In this article, we will limit the discussion to the most harmful health conditions that are affected by the health of your mouth.

    • Osteoporosis – Osteoporosis is a condition of decreased bone density and often brings to mind a picture of a frail old lady whose bones break easily.  Osteoporosis can affect any bone in the body, even the jawbones.  This is especially important in patients who have lost teeth and wear dentures.  The jawbones in a patient with osteoporosis will diminish much more rapidly than in a patient with healthy bones, causing the denture to become loose and uncomfortable.  
    • In a patient with all of their teeth, osteoporosis causes an increased risk for periodontal bone loss.  It has even been suggested that bone loss around the teeth could be a warning sign of osteoporosis.
    • Immunosuppression – There are many different diseases, disorders, and conditions that suppress the immune system, including HIV, autoimmune diseases, organ transplants and cancer treatments.  A suppressed immune system makes any type of infection worse because your body cannot fight it naturally.  This puts a person at higher risk for periodontal disease and dental abscesses.  Because these infections also affect other areas of the body, the impact on the overall health is much greater in an immunocompromised patient.  
    • Anyone who has a problem with their immune system should keep to a strict oral hygiene routine and continuing care schedule with their  dentist.
    • Some people with a weakened immune system will suffer from persistent mouth sores and ulcers that do not heal.  Often a dentist is the first  person to catch these signs of a suppressed immune system.
    • Pulmonary Disease – Because the bacteria in the mouth have a quick pathway to the lungs, there is a link between oral disease and pulmonary disease.  COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is associated with poor oral health, and patients with periodontal disease are at a higher risk of developing bacterial pneumonia.
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    • Diabetes – The link between periodontal disease and diabetes is considered a two-way connection: meaning diabetes makes periodontal disease worse, and periodontal disease makes diabetes worse.  Diabetes worsens periodontal disease through its affect on blood flow, inflammation and healing ability.  Periodontal disease worsens diabetes by contributing to hyperglycemia and complicated metabolic controls.  This association is thought to be true of diabetes with any chronic infection in the body
    • Heart Disease – The bacteria present in the mouth of a patient with periodontal disease can contribute to heart disease through a few different mechanisms of action: 1) small localized infections of blood vessel walls, which leads to plaque formation, atherosclerosis, and in severe cases, a heart attack,  2) an influence on platelets causing them to aggregate and form clots in the bloodstream, which could block a coronary artery, leading to heart attack.  People with periodontal disease have a 25% higher risk of heart disease than people with healthy gums.

     

    • Stroke – The increased risk of a stroke in patients with periodontal disease is based on the same mechanism of action noted above: increased risk for clot formation, which can travel to the brain and occlude a cerebral artery, blocking blood flow to brain tissues.
    • Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes – There is a correlation between periodontal disease and low birth weight infants.  The mechanism is in need of more scientific research.  At this time, it is thought to arise from two possible consequences of periodontal disease:  1) The bacteria present in periodontal disease produce toxins that could enter the blood stream, cross the placenta, and cause damage to the fetus.  2) The maternal inflammatory response to these toxins could interfere with fetal growth.

     

    How do I reduce my risk of health problems?

    All people should be aware of the health risks associated with dental diseases.  Because most oral health problems are preventable, you can be instrumental in lowering your risk for systemic health problems.

     

    1. See your dentist and dental hygienist at their recommended intervals for cleanings and oral evaluations.
    2. Practice good oral home care with regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing with the proper mouthwash.
    3. Treat dental problems as they arise.  Do not wait until something hurts!  Periodontal disease is often called a “silent” disease because it rarely causes pain.
    4. See your medical doctor to be as preventive as possible with conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

     

    I am concerned that my mouth is affecting my overall health.  What now?

    Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!They will discuss your medical history with you and outline how it can affect your oral health and vice versa.  

    Back To School

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    Back to School

    For many people, this time of year is more than just back to school.  It is back to daily and weekly routines, back to bedtimes and alarm clocks, and back to good habits that may have gone by the wayside in the easygoing days of summer.  Add this to your list of daily activities as you get back into the swing of things: taking great care of your teeth!  There are many things involved in pursuing a healthy mouth.  Here are some tips to getting that oral hygiene routine back on track.

     Brushing

    • In order to properly remove plaque (the soft, sticky substance that causes cavities and gum disease), it is necessary to brush your teeth twice a day with a soft or extra-soft bristled toothbrush.

    • The most commonly missed area in brushing is at the gumline, so make sure the bristles of your toothbrush are gently touching the gums as you brush.

    • Check the bristles of your toothbrush often. The American Dental Association recommends replacing toothbrushes every 3-4 months or sooner if bristles are splayed and worn (like the photo shows). A worn toothbrush cannot do a thorough job of cleaning teeth.

    • Please remember: never share a toothbrush with anyone, especially your child.

    • If you or your child is sick with any type of infection, replace your toothbrush or run it through your dishwasher’s “Sanitize” cycle.

    • Supervise your children’s brushing. They should only be brushing their own teeth if they can tie their shoelaces or write their name in cursive. Otherwise, you should still be brushing their teeth for them.

     Flossing

    Brushing alone cannot quite get the job done when it comes to removing all of the plaque from your teeth.  The nooks and crannies between your teeth are havens for clumps of bacteria where even the best brusher is not able to reach.  Flossing removes this plaque and reduces your risk for cavities and gum disease.  When you skip flossing, you miss over 35% of the surface of a tooth.  Studies have shown that flossing every day can prolong your life by six years.  

    Because flossing is a more difficult skill to master, you should floss your children’s teeth until they show they can properly do it on their own.  The easiest way to floss your child’s teeth is to sit on a bed or the floor, and have the child lay down with his head in your lap.  Have the child tilt his head up so that you can look straight down into his mouth.  This gives you the simplest access for flossing (also good for brushing).  The earlier you start this process, the easier it is to accomplish. 

     Preventive Dental Care

    • Professional cleanings – So let’s say you’re not a perfect brusher and flosser; no one is. We all have areas that we may miss with our toothbrush or floss. What happens when sticky, soft plaque is not removed from our teeth? In 24 hours, it begins to harden into tartar (also called calculus). Once it has hardened, it cannot be cleaned off with a toothbrush or floss. It has to be removed by your dentist or dental hygienist. Tartar buildup that is not removed on a regular basis leads to painful, chronic conditions that require more extensive and more expensive dental treatment.

    • Dental evaluation and x-rays – A dental evaluation by your dentist can uncover problems that can be treated in the early stages, when damage is minimal and restorations may be small. Dental x-rays show how the teeth are developing and hidden decay that develops between the teeth. X-rays also allow us to monitor the jawbones for any changes, including cancer or abnormal growths. These important steps, taken on a regular basis, can help prevent painful, chronic conditions and save money. Untreated tooth decay is a serious infectious disease for which there is no immunization.

    • Fluoride application – Cavities used to be a fact of life. Over the past few decades, one thing has been responsible for a dramatic reduction in the prevalence of cavities: fluoride. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says that water fluoridation is “one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century”. Fluoride in your water supply is integrated into children’s teeth as they are forming, adding strength and cavity resistance to their enamel. Teeth can also be strengthened and protected with topical fluoride. Topical fluoride includes many products you may already use at home (toothpaste, mouthwash and gel), and it can be professionally applied in your dentist’s office. Your need for professional fluoride treatment should be assessed by your dentist and is based on your cavity risk level.

    • Sealants – Another common area that toothbrush bristles miss is the deep pits and grooves on the biting surfaces of your back teeth. These types of cavities can be prevented by applying dental sealants over the pits and grooves. A dental sealant is a thin coating that goes on in a liquid form, flowing into the pits and grooves and then hardening to form a smooth, flat surface that prevents the accumulation of bacteria and food particles. Sealants are most effective when applied as soon as a back tooth enters the mouth.

     

    If you missed getting in to our office this summer for your preventive care, take a look at your school calendar.  School holidays are busy in our office, and appointments go quickly! Pick the next school holiday for your dental visits and call us today to get on the books for the day you want!  

    Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!

    Radiation Safety

    Radiation Safety

    We are often asked by our patients about the safety of dental x-rays.  Many people are concerned about the radiation they are exposed to when diagnostic x-rays are taken.  Since exact measurements are difficult to obtain, this article will use averages and comparisons to help you understand the radiation dose you receive from dental x-rays.

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    Understanding Dose from X-rays

    A set of four bitewing x-rays, which is typically taken once per year, delivers an average effective dose of 0.005 milliSievert (mSv). Effective dose is not measured. Effective dose is calculated by taking the dose delivered to the specific organs exposed during an x-ray and accounting for the sensitivity of the tissues exposed. Those values are then summed over all of the tissues in the human body to calculate an effective dose, which allows us to compare doses delivered in different ways to one another.

    Comparing the dose from a set of four bite-wings to other doses we are exposed to daily is a useful way to understand dental x-ray doses in context. In the graphic below, dental bitewing x-ray dose is shown in comparison to other medical exposures and different sources of naturally occurring background radiation. Naturally occurring background radiation is exposure that each of us gets every day, and some of us more than others depending on the location in the world in which we live. In the chart below, the average US doses are shown. The total US average natural background dose from all sources per year is right around 3 mSv, or 600 times greater than the dose from one set of four dental bitewing x-rays, so you would nearly need to have bitewing x-rays twice a day for a year to equal the dose you receive annually just from living on the planet.

    Risk from Dental Exposures

    What most people worry about when they hear the word “radiation” is whether or not it can cause cancer.  The likelihood of an adverse effect (cancer) given an exposure to radioactivity is also known as risk. The delivery of radiation dose to the head and neck area during a dental x-ray does come with some associated risk.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO)’s publication, Communicating radiation risks in paediatric imaging: Information to support healthcare discussions about benefit and risk, the increased risk of cancer incidence from various types of diagnostic x-rays can be compared with baseline lifetime cancer risk.  This publication focused on risk to children because: “children are more vulnerable than adults to the development of certain cancer types, and have longer lifespans to develop long-term radiation-induced health effects.” Basically, kids are more susceptible than adults to cancer from radiation because they will live longer from time at exposure than their adult counterparts and their bodies are still growing and developing, so their organs are more vulnerable to exposure.  WHO’s studies showed that the increase in cancer incidence, or risk, for children aged 1-10 years from dental x-rays is <1 in 500,000.  That risk would be even lower in an adult. Levels of risk are generally considered to be “acceptable” among agencies that regulate radiation exposures to the public if they are in the range of 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 1,000,000. The cancer incidence risk from dental x-rays to children reported by WHO falls directly in this range of acceptable risk.

    Benefit

    The benefit of dental bitewing x-rays is the early detection of multiple types of oral disease, including cavities, gum and bone infections, and oral cancer.  As with any disease, the earlier it is detected, the less invasive treatment can be and the better the long-term prognosis.  The risk of these diseases going undetected is the progression of disease, spread of infection, loss of teeth, loss of bone in the jaws, and in severe cases even death.

    Risk vs. Benefit

    Due to the prevalence of oral diseases and the risks associated with those diseases, it is the opinion of our practice, as well as that of the American Dental Association, that the benefits of early detection with diagnostic x-ray imaging far outweigh the risks associated with the x-rays.  The risk of adverse consequences from undetected dental and oral diseases is significantly greater than the risk of increased cancer incidence due to dental x-rays.  Because each patient has different risk factors, the number of x-rays and the frequency at which they are taken can vary widely and is always determined on a case-by-case basis with the utmost respect for balancing patient concerns with positive outcomes.  For example, a patient with a higher risk for cavities or periodontal disease would benefit from more frequent dental x-rays than a patient who has a very low risk for either cavities or periodontal disease.  The more aggressive a dental condition is, the more frequently dental x-rays are needed to provide the best preventive and interceptive dental care.

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    X-rays and Pregnancy

    The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women reaffirmed its committee opinion in 2015: “Patients often need reassurance that prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of oral conditions, including dental X-rays (with shielding of the abdomen and thyroid) … [is] safe during pregnancy.”  Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex and Dr. Serena typically postpone any dental x-rays during a patient’s pregnancy until after the baby is born unless the patient has a very high risk for disease, which could affect the patient’s overall health and that of the pregnancy.

     

    Concerned about Radiation from Dental X-rays?

    The number and type of dental x-rays taken on every patient is customized for his or her specific needs.  Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!