Lansing's Dental Discussion

Posts for: May, 2013

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
May 15, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   toothpaste  

What do burnt eggshells, crushed bones, brick dust and ox-hoof ashes have in common? Are they things you discovered in your kid's pocket? Ingredients in a witches brew? Funky organic compost materials?

It may be hard to believe — but they're all substances that were once used to make toothpaste, from ancient Egyptian concoctions through 18th century British blends. But don't worry: You won't find any broken crockery or ashes inside a modern tube! Today's toothpastes are scientifically formulated to be effective in removing plaque, which helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease (not to mention bad breath.) So what makes them work so well?

One class of ingredients found in all toothpastes is abrasives — also called cleaning and polishing agents. These slightly grainy substances make the mechanical action of brushing more effective. But unlike crushed bones, or the harsh, gritty particles of yore, today's abrasives are designed to remove stains and bacterial films without damaging tooth structure.

Next come detergents, which account for the foam you see when you brush vigorously. Detergents (sometimes called “surfactants”) help to break up and wash away materials that would otherwise be difficult to dissolve. An ingredient called sodium lauryl sulfate, which is also found in many shampoos, is probably the most common detergent used in toothpastes.

Fluoride, first included in toothpaste in 1914, is another common ingredient. In fact, all toothpastes that carry the seal of the American Dental Association contain it, typically in the form of sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate. It has been proven to make tooth enamel stronger and more resistant to decay.

In addition to these primary components, toothpastes generally contain flavorings to make them more palatable, and binders and preservatives to hold them together and keep them from drying out. Special-purpose toothpastes — like those designed to whiten teeth, prevent tartar, or help reduce sensitivity — have added ingredients.

But regardless of what's in your toothpaste, there's one thing you should remember: It's not the paste (or the brush) that keeps your teeth and gums healthy — it's the hand that holds it! Brushing once or twice a day, using a soft brush with the proper technique (and your favorite toothpaste!) is probably the most important thing you can do at home to enhance your overall oral health.

If you have questions about toothpastes or oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Toothpaste — What's In It?

Dental Care for Toddlers: Give Your Child a Lifetime of Smiles

When your toddlers teeth start erupting into their mouth it is really time to step up their home care if you haven’t already. First, give toddler plenty of good-for-you foods and beverages to keep his or her teeth healthy and strong. It is very important to avoid sugary snacks for your toddler.  It is not good for their overall health or their dental health.  It is important to extablish a good habit of limiting sugary snacks to immediatley following a meal.  Toddlers should no longer be using a bottle or a pacifier. Continued use can have detrimental effect on their developing jaw.  Sippy cups should be used on a limited basis and only contain water if the toddler is allowed to drink from it between meals.

Tooth brushing

Baby teeth are susceptible to decay as soon as they break through the gums. Dr. Holly Scott-Hetchler suggests you start good tooth brushing habits early with your toddler.  You should brush twice a day, always before bed and then whatever other time works best for your schedule.  Be prepared to help your toddler.  He or she won’t have the motor skillsto brush on their own until around eight years old. Let your toddler brush and maybe even try tooth brushing gamesto make cleaning teeth a more fun.  Sing songs or tell a story for the two minutes and it won’t seem like such a long time.

You should not use regular adult or child tooth paste with your toddler.  Use water only or fluoride-free toothpaste until your child won’t swallow it (probably not before two). When he or she is older and won’t swallow the tooth paste your toddler can start using a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.

Brushing technique is important too!You want to teach good brushing techniques to help establish good habits for your toddler.  Have your toddler stand on a step stool in front the mirror and brush his or her teeth with your hand over theirs hand. That helps them to learn the proper motion and to get all areas of their mouth.  Use a circular motion and hold the brush at a 45-degree angle when brushing the sides of the teeth. On areas that don’t have teeth you should still lightly brush the gums.  It is also important to brush the tongue.

Regular dental visits are important in the toddler years to prevent any problems from happening.  Dr. Holly Scott-Hetchler recommends that your toddler visit her office twice a year for a professional dental cleaning, exam, and any needed radiographs.




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