young girl flossing

On the fourth Friday in November, dental professionals celebrate National Flossing Day. Sorry kids, we don’t mean the catchy Tik Tok dance move. Flossing is an essential component of at-home dental hygiene. It involves gently removing plaque and food particles wedged between teeth. The American Dental Association recommends that people clean between their teeth every day to help prevent cavities and gum disease. Even though this habit is the key to keeping teeth and gums healthy, only 30% of Americans floss daily. If you are a parent who struggles with teaching their child how to floss, keep reading for five secrets that make flossing more simple.

1. Be generous with dental floss.

Floss is inexpensive and abundant, so feel free to use as much as you need (typically between 12 to 18 inches per session). Here’s how to do floss properly:

  1. Wrap the majority of floss around the middle finger of each hand
  2. Leave an inch or two in between to work with
  3. Gently work down the string and unravel as needed

It’s important to note that a generous supply of floss is far more hygienic than using the same section repeatedly to clean all the teeth.

2. Hold floss with a “just right” grip.

Floss must come into contact with the sides of each tooth, which requires holding it taut at an angle, changing the angle of pull to maximize contact on each sidewall of the tooth. However, it’s essential to be careful and have a grip that is not too tight or loose. For example, floss that is pulled too tightly can feel uncomfortable. Also, floss that has too much slack will be inefficient at eliminating debris.

3. Slow and steady wins the race!

The point of flossing is to gently remove plaque and food from the enamel (surface of the teeth. However, many people tend to floss too vigorously, which causes more harm than good. If you do it too strenuously, the floss can wear down the enamel, destroy gum tissue, and even make the experience painful.

Instead of forcefully flossing, allow the floss to do the work: apply the floss gently and gradually to the sides of each tooth to remove any germs lodged between the teeth.

4. Try alternative methods.

If a reel of string dental floss isn’t working out, try something else. There are plenty of tools designed to explicitly remove harmful bacteria and food between teeth, including:

  • Pre-threaded dental floss (picks) that are gentle on the fingers
  • A flexible interdental (proxy) brushes that clean between the teeth
  • Powerful water flossers that flush out unwanted particles

5. It gets easier as you go.

As mentioned earlier, the overwhelming majority of the population avoids flossing. Two chief complaints that people have are:

  1. It is time-consuming.
  2. It makes the gums bleed.

Thankfully, it’s never too late to start, and it gets easier with more and more practice. The more you incorporate flossing into your nighttime routine, the more efficient you will become. Also, your gums may bleed or feel tender during the first few days, but it goes away. After a few days, you may notice that your teeth look brighter and healthier due to flossing.

Learn More Dental Hygiene Tips with Dr. Matt

While daily at-home dental hygiene routines consisting of flossing and brushing are essential, professional dental cleanings and exams every six months are crucial for developing mouths. At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt and his team of skilled dental hygienists expertly clean and examine children’s mouths in a clean, child-centered environment. Book your child’s next dental appointment in Overland Park, KS, by calling (913) 685-9990 or messaging us online at your earliest convenience.

young boy and girl carving pumpkins which is a healthy snack

The air feels crisper, the leaves are changing colors, and the aroma and taste of pumpkin spice are everywhere—which means one thing: Fall is finally here! While it may be tempting to fill up on candies, caramel apples, and other sugar-filled treats, there are different ways to celebrate the season. Hidden in pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and other autumnal events, there are plenty of goodies that improve and support the wellness of teeth, gums, and supporting jawbone:  

Pumpkin

Did you know that Fall’s favorite fruit is pumped with nutrients that support overall wellness?

  • Beta carotene promotes healing and connective tissue health.
  • Zinc deficiency is linked to bleeding gums, weak bones, and poor dental health. Thankfully, pumpkins are packed with zinc.
  • Magnesium and calcium work together to strengthen the surface of the teeth (enamel), which helps prevent decay.
  • Vitamin C supports the immune system by reducing gingival inflammation.

Pumpkin Seeds

After carving a pumpkin, don’t throw away the seeds! Pumpkin seeds are an ideal snack because they are high in protein and fiber but low in sugar. Roasted pumpkin seeds are not only delicious but a marvelous source of minerals:

  • Phosphorus and calcium both help keep the teeth strong and are found in most nuts and seeds.
  • Iron helps the body create red blood cells, avoiding anemia tongue.

Apples

Traditionally, many people pick apples with their families and friends during the fall season. When enjoying this fruit, skip the high-sugar candy apples, cider, and pies. Apples are in optimal form when in their raw state with the skin and contain:

  • High water content fruits dilute the effects of natural sugar that they contain.
  • High-fiber, crunchy foods help fight cavities in two ways: (1) Crunchy foods naturally scrub away plaque and leftover food particles. (2) As a consequence of chewing, the salivary glands are stimulated. Saliva contains bacteria-neutralizing properties that protect teeth from plaque buildup.

Cranberries

Cranberries are a popular superfood and also a Thanksgiving staple. Berries are full of vitamins and antioxidants:

  • Polyphenol is a compound found in specific plant-based foods that are packed with antioxidants. This compound repels harmful oral bacteria so that the good bacteria can thrive.
  • B vitamins keep gum inflammation and oral sores at bay.
  • Vitamin C may help prevent periodontal disease, the leading cause of permanent tooth loss.

Because cranberries are tart, many companies add sugar, which cancels out cranberry’s benefits. Enjoy unprocessed cranberries or 100% juice without added sugar in moderation.

Nuts

Before the squirrels hide most of the nuts for the winter, enjoy some of them. Fall is prime harvest time for pecans, walnuts, and other tree nuts. When you chew on nuts, the chewing forces strengthen the teeth and jaws. However, do not bite the shell of a nut to crack it. Your teeth are not a nutcracker.

Make Healthy Choices

Very few things are scarier than cavities, gingivitis, and other childhood dental issues, but that doesn’t mean that your children should miss out on the Fall fun. After trick-or-treating, enjoying one or two pieces of candy is fair (as long as you brush and floss your teeth afterward). However, don’t miss out on all the healthy snacks that this season has to offer.

Dr. Matt educates parents and their children on how to balance fun and oral health. Schedule your child’s next oral health exam in Overland Park, KS, by calling (913) 685-9990 or messaging us online.

Little patient conversing with her dentist at dental office before her regular checkup for cavities and gum disease.

While it’s more prevalent in adults, younger kids and adolescents are still at risk for periodontal (gum) disease. Something worth smiling about is that gum disease is treatable. In this article, we talk about gum disease and how to handle it.

How Gum Disease Forms in Children

When harmful bacteria, food particles, and sugar build up on teeth and gums, they produce a sticky film called plaque. Plaque buildup can lead to puffy, inflamed, and bleeding gums. If this gets worse, severe gum disease can loosen teeth and damage the soft tissue and bones underneath them.

Signs of Gum Disease in Children and Teens

Chronic gingivitis is widespread in children and is the mildest form of gum disease. Here are four signs of gingivitis:

  • Inflamed gums that look puffy, swollen, and bright red
  • Bleeding gums during brushing, flossing, or any other time
  • Bad breath (halitosis) that does not clear up after brushing and flossing
  • Calculus (hardened plaque and tartar) builds up

Thankfully, gingivitis is treatable and reversible through at-home hygiene routines and professional dental intervention. However, left untreated, gingivitis can gradually progress into more severe forms of periodontal disease.

Periodontitis happens in otherwise healthy young people and typically attacks around puberty or later in life. The three stages of periodontitis are:

·        Early stages of periodontitis stem from gingivitis. Gums may recede or move away from the teeth and sometimes expose tooth roots. Slight bone and connective tissue loss are common signs during the initial stage of periodontitis. Patients may also experience sensitivity to temperature or discomfort when chewing.

·        Moderate periodontitis is more destruction of bone and connective tissue. Multiple teeth may be abnormally spaced and feel loose or separated. Periodontal pockets begin to form and fill with bacteria and tartar.

·        Severe jaw bone loss and increased tooth mobility accompany advanced forms of gum disease. Periodontal pockets deepen and may fill with bacteria, tartar, and even pus (if infected). Teeth are more at risk of falling out at the advanced stage of gum disease.

How to Prevent Gum Disease

A consistent oral hygiene routine is the most efficient way to prevent and treat gum disease. Simple oral hygiene care includes:

  • Thoroughly brushing and flossing teeth twice a day
  • Using a pea-sized fluoridated toothpaste (if the child is over two years of age)
  • Rinsing the mouth with a mouthwash to reduce oral bacteria
  • Enjoying a healthy diet that is low in sugar and starch
  • Visiting the dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings

Good oral hygiene routines are essential for babies, children, and teenagers. While it’s normal for a kid to sneak a sweet treat or miss brushing here and there—sticking to at-home oral hygiene, eating a balanced diet, and regular dental checkups are imperative. These healthy habits help protect children against gum disease and other health problems.

How to Treat Gum Disease

Here are some ways dentists treat all stages of gum disease:

  • Good dental habits (as mentioned in the last section) can help fight gingivitis.
  • Scaling and root planing can remove plaque and tartar on the surface of the teeth and under the gum lines. This treatment can also smooth tooth roots and reattach gums to the teeth.
  • Antibiotics may be put in the periodontal pockets or orally in a pill form. Sometimes, dentists also prescribe an anti-bacterial
  • Surgery is needed to restore gingival tissues damaged by advanced gum disease.

Track and Treat Gum Disease in Overland Park, KS

Childhood gum disease requires professional care. Dr. Matt helps parents manage and treat gum conditions that detriment oral health and overall wellness. Call 913-685-9990 or message us online to schedule an appointment at Smiles Dentistry for Kids.

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