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Should Children Use Whitening Products?

September 22nd, 2021

As adults, we often wish our teeth could be as white as they were when we were small children. Baby teeth have thinner and whiter enamel than adult teeth, and those brilliant smiles are a result! But occasionally, you may be surprised to discover some staining or discoloration on those lovely first teeth. You might be tempted to apply a whitening product to your child’s teeth, but, please—read on!

Causes of Staining

  • Improper Brushing—Often, a loss of tooth whiteness means that plaque has built up on the tooth surface. Careful brushing is needed to remove bacteria and plaque, and if your child isn’t brushing at least twice a day for two minutes, discoloration can be the result.
  • Medications—When given in liquid form, or when added to formula or food, iron supplements can cause dark grey staining on the teeth. Medications taken by a mother while pregnant or breast feeding, such as tetracycline, can also lead to discoloration.
  • Injury—If a tooth suffers a serious injury, the tooth can darken because of changes inside the enamel.
  • Health conditions—Certain health problems can cause tooth discoloration, or sometimes children are born with weaker enamel that is more likely to stain.

If you have noticed any staining on your child’s primary teeth, call our Fairfax office. Simple stains can often be removed with better brushing techniques, and we can clean other surface stains in the office. Staining caused by an injury or a health condition is something we can discuss in detail with you. We can even use some professional whitening methods if those are indicated.

Why not just buy a home whitening kit for your child? There are several important reasons to leave these products on the shelf while your child is young.

  • Whitening kits are designed for adults. They have been tested for adult teeth in adult trials. Check the box for age appropriate use. Most products are not recommended for pre-teen children.
  • Remember that thinner enamel we mentioned earlier? Add to that the delicate skin of young children, and it’s sensible to be cautious about using a bleaching agent that can cause mouth and tooth sensitivity even in adults.
  • There is no body of evidence available as to the short and long term effects of using these products on children.

If you are concerned about the brightness of your child’s smile, please talk to Dr. Samuel Cho. We can recommend better ways to brush at home, clean your child’s teeth in the office, or suggest professional methods of whitening if there are physical or psychological reasons that it would be valuable. But while your child is young, those off-the-shelf whitening products can wait a few more years.

Troubles with Cementum? Prevent ‘Em!

September 15th, 2021

Our teeth are a lot more complicated than they look. Beneath that shiny white surface is an entire system of different cell tissues working together to keep each tooth vital and healthy.

  • Enamel, the protective exterior of the crown (the visible part of the tooth), is the strongest substance in the body and the first line of defense against damage to our teeth.
  • Dentin, the hard tissue under the enamel and cementum, has microscopic tubules that connect to the pulp.
  • Pulp, the tissue at the center of the tooth, contains the nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue that keep the tooth alive.
  • Cementum, composed of connective tissue which forms the protective exterior of the root, also attaches to fibers in the periodontal ligaments which hold the teeth securely in the jaw.

Because cementum is below the gum line, it’s generally safe from the cavity-causing conditions that our enamel is exposed to every day. But there are still potential hazards that we should be aware of.

  • Cementum Erosion

With a name like “cementum,” it’s logical to assume that this is the hardest tissue in the body. Actually, however, that distinction goes to our enamel. And if even our enamel can be damaged by bacteria and plaque, cementum doesn’t stand a chance!

How does cementum come in contact with cavity-causing bacteria? Gums often recede as a natural part of the aging process, leaving part of the root exposed. Gum disease, failure to brush and floss regularly, and heavy-handed brushing can lead to early gum recession. The newly exposed cementum is now exposed to the same conditions, which cause cavities in our enamel. But a root cavity can be trickier to treat and, because the cementum is not as strong as enamel, can progress more quickly. And if a cavity reaches the pulp, a root canal could be necessary.

But the erosion of cementum doesn’t have to result in a cavity to cause discomfort. When cementum is removed, the dentin beneath is exposed. Dentin, you’ll recall, contains tiny tubes that connect to the pulp of the tooth. The result? Conditions such as heat, cold, even an intake of air can cause tooth sensitivity as they stimulate the nerves in the pulp. If your hot coffee or ice cream cone is suddenly causing you pain, let us know. There are treatments, which can reduce tooth sensitivity.

  • Gum Disease (Periodontitis)

In more severe cases of gum disease, the gums pull away from the teeth leaving pockets, which harbor plaque and bacteria. Left untreated, these pockets can become home to infections, which attack and destroy bone structure and connective tissue. Caught early, a treatment called tooth scaling and planing can help. In this type of deep cleaning, your dentist or endodontist will remove plaque and tartar and then smooth the root surface to make it harder for bacteria and plaque to stick. If the gums have receded too far, a gum graft might be necessary to protect the exposed roots.

  • Trauma

The same traumas that can damage teeth above the gum line can result in injuries below it. Chewing on hard objects (ice, hard candies, wooden pencils), bruxism (tooth grinding), and sports injuries or accidents can cause cracks in the cementum. If your root is split or fractured, it might be possible to save your tooth, but sometimes extraction is the best option.

So how do you protect your cementum, hidden as it is under your gum line? The same way you protect the more visible parts of your teeth!

  • Keep to a healthy daily routine of brushing and flossing. This will help prevent gum disease and keep gum recession at bay. Using a soft brush and brushing firmly but gently will remove plaque while protecting both enamel and cementum. If you notice tooth sensitivity, give us a call!
  • Come in to our Fairfax office for regular dental exams. The best treatment for gum disease is prevention. When you come in for regular checkups, we are able to discover early signs of gum disease before it becomes a serious problem. If you are suffering from more advanced periodontitis, there are treatments available.
  • Safety first when it comes to your smile. If you chew on hard objects, talk to Dr. Samuel Cho about how to break the habit. If you grind your teeth, see us for solutions. If you play sports, let us know—often a mouthguard can help protect your teeth from injuries that could otherwise lead to more complex procedures or even tooth loss.

Maintaining your healthy dental habits is a lot like cementum—the foundation of a beautiful smile. Nothing complicated about that!

Building Blocks for a Healthy Grown-Up Smile

September 8th, 2021

Even before a baby is born, those tiny baby teeth are already forming. Expectant mothers can help ensure that their children’s baby teeth will be strong and healthy by getting the recommended amounts of proteins, vitamins, and minerals in their prenatal diets.

But a mother can’t “eat for two” to make sure her child’s adult teeth are healthy—children’s permanent teeth begin real growth and development only after birth. What can we do to encourage strong permanent teeth as our children grow and develop? Here are four important building blocks parents can use to lay a healthy foundation for their children’s grown-up smiles.

Serve a Tooth-Healthy Diet

The same vitamins and minerals that help create baby teeth are essential for creating healthy adult teeth. Tooth enamel, the hardest substance in the body, is almost completely made up of calcium phosphate minerals.  A diet which provides the recommended amounts of calcium and phosphorus helps your child’s body grow strong enamel. And don’t forget vitamin D, which our bodies need to absorb calcium and phosphorus.

A tooth-healthy diet should include several servings of foods which provide calcium, such as dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), dark leafy vegetables, and fortified juices, cereals and tofu. Phosphorus can be found in proteins like meat, fish, and poultry, as well as beans, nuts, dairy, and whole grains. Egg yolks and fatty fish are natural sources of vitamin D, and it’s easily available in fortified foods such as cow’s milk, soy milk, cereals, and orange juice.

Use the Right Amount of Fluoride

Fluoride is called “Nature’s cavity fighter” for a reason. Fluoride reduces the risk of cavities and helps strengthen tooth enamel. Dr. Samuel Cho can offer invaluable advice on when to start and how to use fluoride toothpaste to protect your child’s baby teeth and developing adult teeth.

Can there be too much of this good thing? While fluoride is a safe and effective way to protect teeth in normal, recommended amounts, too much fluoride can lead to fluorosis. This condition can cause cosmetic changes in the enamel of permanent teeth, from almost invisible lighter spots to darker spots and streaking.

How to make sure your child gets the right amount of fluoride?

For children under the age of three, use a dab of toothpaste no larger than a grain of rice. Ask Dr. Samuel Cho if fluoride toothpaste is recommended.

Young children can’t always understand the idea of spitting and rinsing after brushing, so children between the ages of three and six should use only a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste, and need you there to make sure they spit and rinse afterward.

Ask us about local water fluoride levels if you have any concerns about using tap water for drinking or for mixing formula, keep fluoride toothpastes and other products out of the reach of children, monitor your children while they brush, and always check with us before giving your child a fluoride rinse or supplement.

Help Your Child Retire Harmful Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habits

Your child might self-comfort with the help of a pacifier or thumb sucking, which can be a valuable soothing habit. But it’s important to talk to Dr. Samuel Cho to see just how long this soothing habit should last. Around the age of four, aggressive thumb or pacifier sucking can lead to problems for permanent teeth.

Vigorous sucking can cause protruding upper front teeth. Aggressive sucking can lead to changes in the shape of your child’s palate and jaw. Open bite malocclusions, where the upper and lower teeth are unable to meet, and overbites, where the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth more than they should, can also be the result of lengthy and forceful thumb sucking.

Take Care of Baby Teeth

Baby teeth are important! They bite and chew food, and they work with the tongue to help your child learn to pronounce words properly. And there’s one more important reason to make sure primary teeth stay healthy: they serve as the place holders which guide permanent teeth into their proper spots.

When a baby tooth is lost too early, due to decay or injury, the teeth on either side can drift into the empty space, preventing a permanent tooth from erupting where it needs to. Any misalignment or crowding which results may require orthodontic treatment in the future.

Call our Fairfax office if your child unexpectedly loses a baby tooth. There may be no cause for concern, or, if there’s a potential problem, an appliance called a “space maintainer,” which keeps the baby teeth from shifting out of place, can be fabricated especially for your child.

Your child’s adult teeth are being formed now. Work with us to make sure the building blocks of present and future dental health are in place. You’re giving your child the foundation for a lifetime of beautiful, grown-up smiles!

Happy Labor Day!

September 1st, 2021

Labor Day is upon us, and that means the non-official end to summer. Before the kids head back to school and temperatures start to cool down, this is your last chance to barbeque in the beautiful Fairfax community, head to the lake, and wear your favorite pair of white pants.

About Labor Day

Each year, Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September. It is the one day of year Americans celebrate their achievements in work, which the US Department of Labor says has contributed to prosperity and well-being of America as a whole. Americans have been celebrating Labor Day since the 1880s, and today it is an official federal holiday.

Interesting Facts About Labor Day

  • Every year, more than 30 million Americans travel over Labor Day weekend.
  • Canada was the first to celebrate Labor Day, and the US soon followed.
  • President Cleveland made Labor Day and official US holiday in 1894.
  • Labor Day marks the beginning of the NFL and NCAA sports seasons for fans.
  • Labor Day marks the end of hot dog season, when Americans consume seven billion hot dogs.

Thanks for being a valued patient of our dental office. Our staff would like to wish you a safe and happy Labor Day weekend. Enjoy your time off!

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