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Bedtime, Bottles, and Baby Teeth

May 27th, 2020

Your beautiful baby is finally asleep, bottle clutched in tiny hands, dreaming sweet dreams with a charming milky smile.

Unfortunately, this lovely fantasy might lead to a rude awakening. If your child goes to sleep every night with a bottle, the chance of childhood cavities greatly increases. In fact, there is even a name for it—baby bottle tooth decay.

How Can Bottles Lead to Tooth Decay?

Cavities are created when oral bacteria produce acids that erode enamel, the protective outer coating of the tooth. These bacteria love to feed on sugar. Baby formula and even breast milk contain carbohydrates in the form of sugars. And this is not a bad thing!

Carbohydrates are essential for babies (and adults as well) for growth and development. Lactose, the sugar found in breast milk, is a carb that is easy for your baby to digest and helps good bacteria in the digestive system grow. Formulas with cow’s milk also contain lactose, and even the other kinds of sugars found in formula provide your baby with necessary, easily digestible carbohydrates.

But when your child goes to sleep with a bottle, those healthy sugars aren’t all being digested. Liquid can pool in the mouth bathing those perfect new teeth with sugar all through the night. That’s why we don’t recommend letting your child go to sleep with a bottle of formula.

And if your older child’s bottle is filled with juice or other sugared drinks, the effects are potentially much more harmful. Eventually, sugar left in the mouth all night will lead to the development of cavities, and in severe cases, to infection and even tooth loss. The upper front teeth are most often affected, but other baby teeth can become decayed as well.

How Can You Help Prevent Baby Bottle Decay?

  • Start early by gently wiping your baby’s gums and erupting teeth after each bottle or breast feeding with a clean, damp washcloth or gauze pad. (Even though breastfed babies have a reduced risk of early cavities, it’s still a good idea to clean their gums and teeth after feedings.)
  • Once those little teeth have come in, use a baby-size toothbrush to gently clean them. Talk to us about toothpaste—when and how much is appropriate for your child.
  • Babies generally require breastfeeding or formula at night to get the nutrition they need. It’s best if they finish their feeding before naps or bedtime so you have a chance to clean little mouths. If your toddler carries a bottle or sippy cup through the day, or insists on a bottle at night, talk to us or your pediatrician for ideas on how and when to substitute tooth-healthy options such as water.
  • Limit unnecessary or unhealthy sugars. Never put sugar-heavy juices and sodas in your child’s bottle or cup, or sugar or honey on a pacifier.

Your Child’s Baby Teeth Are Important

Your child will start losing those baby teeth around the age of six, but primary teeth provide many irreplaceable benefits before they are, well, replaced. Using the teeth to bite and chew food helps form proper eating habits and develop jaw and facial muscles. Baby teeth help with speech development, and they serve as place holders to make sure the adult teeth erupt in the right spot. Losing baby teeth too early can interfere with all of these goals.

As soon as that first tooth makes its appearance, or by the age of one, bring your baby to our Fairview Heights, IL office for a first checkup. Drs. Rottschalk, Acker, and Froidcoeur and our team will not only make sure everything is going according to schedule, but we will check tiny teeth for enamel erosion and even cavities. Most important, we’ll suggest ways to prevent cavities and tooth decay with proactive dental care. We have many great ideas on making sure your little one’s teeth are healthy from bottle to baby teeth, preparing your child for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles. And that’s a dream come true!

Treatments for Tooth Discoloration

May 13th, 2020

Congratulations! You’re getting married! Wow! It’s your twentieth reunion! New job? Great news! No matter the occasion, large or small, you want to celebrate it with your whitest, brightest smile. How can Drs. Rottschalk, Acker, and Froidcoeur help? In a number of ways!

Professional Whitening

Because teeth are porous, over time substances in food, beverages, and tobacco products can stain the surface of the teeth. This is called extrinsic staining. If this is your concern, having your teeth whitened professionally is the fastest, most effective, and longest-lasting method of achieving your brightest smile.

We’ll examine your teeth to make sure that there are no pre-existing conditions such as cavities or gum disease that should be treated before whitening. We will use a gel with a higher concentration of whitening ingredients than over-the-counter products, protect your gums, and monitor the entire process. If you want to whiten at home, talk to us during your visit to our Fairview Heights, IL office about custom mouthpieces and professional whitening gels for precise application and safe, effective results.

Intrinsic Stains

Intrinsic stains are below the surface of the tooth, and harder to remove. These stains might be the result of an injury to the tooth or exposure to a medication like tetracycline while the tooth is forming.

While some whitening systems and professional whiteners can improve intrinsic staining if it is not too severe, normally bonding or veneers are better options. We can use color matching to make sure bonding or veneers are indistinguishable from your natural teeth. And do consider a professional whitening first, so we can match your dental work to your whitest natural smile!

Treating Existing Dental Work

Again, when you are considering porcelain veneers or crowns, composite veneers, or tooth bonding, choose the color that works best for your whitest natural smile, because these materials cannot be whitened like natural teeth. If you have dental work already in place that you would like to brighten, both composite and porcelain dental work can be polished to remove surface stains. If the color is simply not a good match for your natural teeth any more, replacement of your dental work is an option we can discuss.

There are plenty of good reasons to get your teeth whitened—Weddings! Reunions! New jobs!—but the best reason of all is giving you the healthy, confidant smile you’ve always wanted. And that’s something to celebrate!

A Word to the Wise about Wisdom Teeth

May 6th, 2020

There are some pretty exciting rewards to look forward to as you transition from your mid-teens to your 20s. Driving! Voting! Graduation! But there is one rite of passage that you might not be looking forward to quite so much: getting your wisdom teeth. What are wisdom teeth? When are they a problem? And, most important, how can Drs. Rottschalk, Acker, and Froidcoeur help?

Children have 20 baby teeth that are replaced as they grow up with 32 adult teeth. The last to arrive are the four third molars more commonly known as wisdom teeth. But that “32” number is a little flexible. Some people never develop wisdom teeth at all. You can stop reading here if you are one of this carefree group. The rest of us have from one to four wisdom teeth. Some people have enough room in their mouths to accommodate wisdom teeth without affecting the alignment of their other teeth or their bite. But for many of us, wisdom teeth extraction is often the best and healthiest option.

When do wisdom teeth become a problem? Most generally, when there is simply no room for them to erupt properly. As a result, the wisdom teeth become “impacted.” An impacted tooth can cause you trouble in a number of different ways.

  • Completely Impacted Tooth

Some wisdom teeth never erupt at all, staying within the jawbone. If there are no problems with these teeth, your dentist might recommend leaving them in place. If your other teeth become crowded or otherwise affected, if cysts develop, or if other complications arise, these teeth should be extracted. Even if you are symptom free, regular exams and X-rays at our Fairview Heights, IL office are important for monitoring the condition of impacted wisdom teeth to make sure they remain problem-free.

  • Partially Erupted Tooth

A wisdom tooth can also begin to erupt, but never break completely through the gum tissue. The tooth and gum area can’t be cleaned properly, trapping food particles and bacteria. The gums can become easily irritated and even infected, and these teeth are much more prone to decay. When infection and rapid decay are present, extraction is often considered the best treatment option.

Drs. Rottschalk, Acker, and Froidcoeur might be the first to mention your wisdom teeth at your regular checkup, or you might be surprised to see a new tooth appearing while you are doing your nightly brushing and flossing. Impacted wisdom teeth can be symptom-free, or may present with pain, redness, swelling, or bad breath. Whenever the first signs of wisdom teeth appear, it’s time to discuss your options.

Your dentist or oral surgeon is your best resource for helping you decide on the wisest course of action for your wisdom teeth, whether it’s extraction or regular monitoring. After all, transitioning to adulthood is even more rewarding with a beautiful healthy smile.

Brushing Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

April 29th, 2020

It’s great that you’re enthusiastic about your dental health! Here are some tips from Drs. Rottschalk, Acker, and Froidcoeur and our team to make sure you are getting the most out of your brushing by avoiding common mistakes.

Choose the right brush

In almost every case, a soft brush provides the right amount of bristle-strength to clean your teeth and gums effectively. Hard bristles can damage sensitive enamel and gum tissue, so treat yourself kindly. Also, choose a brush head that’s the right size for your mouth, since a toothbrush that’s too large can be uncomfortable and unable to reach all the areas you need to brush.

Don’t keep your brush too long

Three months is about the average life of a toothbrush. Over time, bristles become frayed or worn and lose their effectiveness. It’s also a good idea to replace your brush after an illness.

Be gentle

Even with a soft brush, it’s possible to brush so hard that your enamel and gums are affected. Think of yourself as massaging your teeth and gums rather than scrubbing them.

Use proper technique

Using a “sawing” back-and-forth motion is hard on your enamel and misses plaque and debris between the teeth. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, especially at the gumline, to gently remove plaque. Use short strokes or a circular motion to clean as much of the surface and between the teeth as possible. Make sure you cover all the surfaces of your teeth: outside, inside, and chewing. And don’t forget your tongue!

Take your time

Brushing twice a day for two minutes each time is the standard. Most people brush much less; try using the stopwatch on your phone or a two-minute timer to make sure you are spending enough time brushing. On the other hand, if you brush too hard or too often, remember that over-brushing can lead to problems for your gums and enamel.

Your daily routine might be fast and furious, but your dental routine requires a gentle, methodical approach. Ask at your next visit to our Fairview Heights, IL office, and we will be happy to help you design the perfect brushing practices for your busy life.