Thursday, August 25, 2016

Choosing the Right Sippy Cup

Choosing the Right Sippy Cup

Choosing the Right Sippy Cup

Sippy cups. The cup for toddlers. Or, is it? After all, there’s the “transition cup,” the “toddler cup” and the “kid bottle.” Which is correct? Then there are a multitude of styles and materials to choose from ... not to mention the fact that certain types of sippy cups tend to land kids in the E.R.! What? We’re going to help you get through all of this muck with the help of some very well educated and experienced Mommy bloggers. Off we go!

If you laugh in the face of your child each time they toss their sippy cup across the room, and not a spill is to be found, you have mechanical engineer (and parent), Richard Belanger to thank for your entitled mockery. In 1988, tired of cleaning up after his son Bryan, Belanger designed what would become, the first sippy cup. So, parents (!) ... a big round of applause for Mr. Belanger!

Which type? The first thing you’ll want to figure out is: are you even using the correct cup?

First, the names:
  • Transition cup: This cup will get you from breast- and bottle-feeding to your child’s first "cup." It’ll often have two handles to ease in handling and a soft nipple that’s easy on your baby’s gums. This cup is best for kids aged between 4-12 months.
  • Toddler cup: The toddler cup is aimed at kids between 12 months and 3 years old. Most won’t have handles to help your child work on dexterity, and in this cup you’ll see all sorts of straws and spouts.
  • Kid Bottle: Once your kids reach the age of 3, they’ve likely had all their teeth come in and are most certainly on the move! They’re much bigger than toddler cups and will look more like your own water bottle – just kid-sized.
What material? All sorts of obstacles exist with materials. With plastic, parents are often concerned about BPA. Glass is great, but if you thought a spill was bad, how about a spill with shattered glass everywhere? Stainless steel? Great, but heavy. Silicone looks like a good option as well, but to some,the jury is still out on its safety. Essentially, you have to decide for yourself after weighing all the options.

Which spout, straw or valve? Well, the American Dental Association is not a fan of valves – largely because they prolong the consumption of liquids via sucking method instead of sipping. And, when it comes to straws or spouts, a straw is generally preferred because it helps keep liquid off the front teeth, which can lead to cavities over time.

What about the hazards? Each of these containers, with perhaps the exception of the soft-spouted cup can also be hazardous should your child fall with one of them in their hand. In fact, every four hours a child somewhere lands in the emergency room because of a sippy cup injury. Ouch!

So what do you think? Do you have more of an idea now as to the differences between sippy cups? Do you have more questions? We bet you do. Certainly, a lot of the decision-making comes down to your own preferences for materials and risk tolerance concerning your child’s propensity to “run with scissors,” if you will. If you’d like to dig even deeper, check out the incredibly comprehensive “Sippy Cup Reviews” post on, which served as inspiration for this article. We love the site – that Mommy blogger is a pediatrician!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Can a Meat-Free Diet Be Bad for Your Teeth?

Can a Meat-Free Diet Be Bad for Your Teeth?

Can a Meat-Free Diet Be Bad for Your Teeth?

In America, we're blessed with a wonderful selection of food to fuel our bodies. Crops are plentiful, and what doesn't grow here arrives via ship or air, creating food lifestyle choices not possible a generation ago. So, if you're more of a fruit and vegetables person, and are either a vegan or vegetarian – or considering these options - we wanted to take a look at how following that lifestyle can affect your teeth. You might be surprised to learn what seems like the best possible choice for the earth, your animal friends, and yourself, comes with a few caveats with regard to your oral health.

Can a Mindful Diet Be Bad for Your Teeth?

What could be better than eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables? After all, every doctor seems to suggest we include more leafy greens and antioxidant-rich fruits into our diets. What could possibly be wrong with just eating food from these two groups? More of the same has to be better, right?  Well, yes, and no.  And, as with everything, it depends on who you ask. Since we’re in the dental profession, and concerned about your teeth, that's the perspective we're going to examine. There are three main concerns when a diet lacks meat and dairy: snacking, acid, and a lack of re-mineralizing food products. Let's take a look:
  1. Snacking: Most of us are familiar with the old rule of thumb that says we should have three square meals a day, and some prefer five to six to spread calories out more evenly. Vegans and vegetarians, however usually find themselves snacking constantly to meet their body's need for energy. And constant snacking is not good at all for your teeth. From the moment you put food into your mouth, the pH level in your oral cavity drops, creating a more acidic environment that wears down tooth enamel and provides a breeding ground for the bacteria that cause tooth decay. For those of us who eat 3-6 meals a day, this setback is temporary, and only lasts for about a half hour beyond a meal. For snackers, though, this acidic environment continues, on and on, until the snacking ceases.
  2. Acid: What further complicates this approach to eating is the type of food vegetarians and vegans (particularly raw vegans), are prone to snack on – carbohydrate-rich acidic fruit, or dry sticky fruits. This double-whammy of a constantly acidic mouth from snacking doused with even more acid from fruit is a recipe for weak enamel and cavities. To counter this effect, snack less, avoid sticky fruits, choose more firm, less-acidic fruits, chew gum with Xylitol, and keep a bottle of water nearby to continually rinse your mouth. Also, don't rush to brush your teeth until a half hour after snacking. Doing so while the enamel is temporarily softened due to its acidic environment, can only make things worse. You may also want to seek out more filling carbohydrate choices such as whole grains. Nuts, which can protect your teeth, can also be a good choice, and provide healthy fats your body needs.
  3. A Lack of Re-mineralizing Foods: And that brings us to the final big hurdle for our vegan and vegetarian friends out there – the general absence of remineralizing foods. Research suggests that meat, dairy and seafood help teeth in two ways. They may help counteract acidity in the mouth, and aid in the remineralization of teeth that have been demineralized in an acidic environment. Meat-free dieters lack these beneficial side-effects of a more omnivorous meal plan. That said, nuts, green leafy vegetables (without too much focus on spinach, which isn't good for your teeth), and sea vegetables can help with remineralization. You may also wish to consider supplements that provide you with the proper balance of vitamins and minerals you may be lacking in your diet. Doing so also ensures the proper absorption of all those great nutrients you are getting from your diet. Consumption without absorption can defeat the goal of a healthy diet.
Maintaining good healthy teeth is an important part of healthy living. That's why it is critical to understand how changes made to our diets affect our teeth. Surely, you will have more questions after reading this article. Conduct some more research on your own to learn more. There is a lot to cover when it comes to these concerns. Also, be sure to speak with your dentist and physician about your lifestyle choices and how to ensure you enjoy a long and happy life – and one that includes keeping all of your teeth as well!

Friday, August 5, 2016

8 Secrets to a Successful Back-to-School Dental Checkup

8 Secrets to a Successful Back-to-School Dental Checkup

Child visits the dentist
Backpack? Check. Booster shots? Check. Teeth cleaning? Check!

Regular dental visits are important year-round, but a back-to-school checkup is key in fighting the most common chronic disease found in school-age children:cavities. In fact, dental disease causes children to miss more than 51 million school hours each year. 

Prevention and early detection can help avoid pain, trouble eating, difficulty speaking and school absences. “When people are beginning to do their pediatrician checks to make sure their kids are school-ready, make sure teeth are part of it,” says pediatric dentist and American Dental Association spokesperson Dr. Mary Hayes. 

Plan Ahead

Between cookouts, camping trips and everything else on your family’s summer bucket list, it’s easy for school to sneak up on you. Unfortunately, many parents may not think about making that appointment until August, which Dr. Hayes says is one of her busiest times. “The rush is pretty intense,” she says. 

Give yourself enough time by making it a habit to call when your child gets her spring report card each year. “Planning ahead is good,” Dr. Hayes says. “If families want to avoid the rush to go back to school in August, then plan on getting appointments for the beginning of the summer.” 

Encourage Age-Appropriate Dental Habits at Home

The best kind of checkup is a cavity-free checkup. Moms and dads can help make this happen by encouraging kids to brush twice a day for two minutes and floss once a day. Here’s Dr. Hayes’ age-by-age advice:

Ages 6 and Under
At this age, your child might want to do all the brushing herself but doesn’t have the fine motor skills needed to do a thorough job. Let them start and jump in when needed. “During that age, the mouth is changing so much that children who are 5 or 6 are often brushing their teeth in the way they were when they were 2 or 3,” Dr. Hayes says. “They’re not accommodating the new molars, and they’re not accommodating the fact that the mouth is growing.”

Ages 7-12
By now, your child knows what to do, she just might not want to. Keep encouraging healthy brushing and flossing habits. “Be aware of the fact that sometimes you have to take over a little bit more,” she says. “By the time they’re teenagers, they’re starting to understand self-care, accountability for their actions and such.”

Ages 12-18
Dr. Hayes says this is a critical time for dental health. “When you look at research for when caries appear in kids, it tends to be in young kids. But another bump-up time is teenage years and early adulthood,” she says. “Part of this has to do with the fact that teenagers may have gone for many years and never had a cavity. They don’t necessarily take care of their teeth because they don’t see the consequence of not.”

Don’t let your teen's habits become out of sight, out of mind. “The behaviors of the teenager are going to translate into the 20-year-old. We want to be able to support them and be respectful of them because they’re not kids anymore.”

Timing Is Everything

Time of day can make or break your child’s appointment. “It’s important for a child of any age who’s used to a nap to not schedule during naptime,” she says. If your child is always cranky after waking up, factor that in too. 

For older children, avoid cramming in a dentist appointment right after day camp or school. “Not all kids have the energy to do that,” she says. “I will have parents who want to do very elaborate operative work after school because that’s when the kids can come out. But if the child has already been exhausted or had a bad day or had tests, they just don’t have the stamina to make it through the appointment successfully.”

Make One Child a Model

If you’ve scheduled back-to-back appointments for your children, there’s a simple way to decide who goes first: Choose the child who’s had the most positive experiences at the dentist. “Every child is going to be a little bit different in their temperament about how they approach a visit,” she says. “You generally want the ones first who are more successful because the others get to see how it goes.” 

A Hungry Child Is Not a Happy Patient

Feed your child a light meal before the appointment. “Hungry people are grouchy people. You want them to be comfortable,” she says. “It’s also generally a good idea not to feed them in the waiting room before you see the dentist because there’s all that food in [their mouth].”

Eating light is also better for a child with a healthy gag reflex. “Some children gag a lot just because they gag with everything,” she says. “As they age and they get more control over swallowing, kids tend to gag less.” 

Bonus points if your child brushes before an appointment. “It’s polite,” Dr. Hayes says.

Leave Your Anxiety at the Door

If your heart races at the very thought of the dentist, your child can probably tell. “Kids pick up on parents’ anxiety,” Dr. Hayes says. “It’s important with kids, especially at 4, 5 and 6, because I believe the phobic adults are the ones who had bad experiences when they were that age.”

The younger your kids are, the more you need to be aware of how you’re communicating with them. For example, if your child asks about getting a cavity filled, don’t say, “It will only hurt for a little bit.” Instead, encourage your child to ask the dentist. “With any child, you want them to be able to feel successful at accomplishing a good visit and link that positive feeling with the idea that their teeth are strong and healthy so they have that message going forward for the rest of their lives.”

Keep Cool If Your Child Won’t Cooperate

If your child gets upset during her visit, the worst thing you can do is swoop them out of the chair and leave. “The next visit is going to be harder,” Dr. Hayes says. “You still have to help them get through part of the visit.”

First, assess why your child is acting out. Are they truly afraid, or are they trying to test the situation? “One of the reasons I think a 4, 5 or 6-year-old gets upset is because they think they’re going to be asked to do something they can’t be successful at,” she says. “They’re in an environment they feel they can’t control and that makes them upset, so we try to break it down into small steps.”

Then, work as a team with your dentist to keep the visit going. Let the dentist lead the conversation. Jump in where you think it helps most, while still allowing the dentist and your child to build a good relationship. “Give the dentist every opportunity to turn the visit around,” she says. 

Take a Card (or Three) on Your Way Out

Accidents can happen whether your child is in sports camp, gym class or just walking down the street. In case of emergency, make sure your child’s teachers and coaches have all the medical contact information they need – including your dentist’s number. Grab business cards for your wallet, your child’s backpack and your school’s files. “Parents should be very aware of accidents and make sure that wherever they go that they bring the number of their dentist so that if a child has an accident, they can certainly call the office,” Dr. Hayes says.