Did you know that the formation of the mouth and teeth takes place within the first 6-8 weeks of fetal development? It is almost unbelievable to think that by the time your baby is born all of the teeth they will ever have are already developing in their jawbones. Our bodies are simply amazing! This fact only underlines the importance of early and regular preventative care and developing good oral hygiene habits early.
Primary (baby) teeth play an important role in your child’s oral, facial, and total body development. They are the foundation to establishing healthy habits and confidence that your child will carry with them for a lifetime.
1. The purpose of all teeth is to chew food and maintain proper nutrition and health. Pain from cavities or other types of dental infections can make it more difficult for your child to eat nutrient dense foods that are healthy for both their body and oral development. Many nutrient dense foods such as leafy greens, vegetables, meat proteins, and whole grains take a great effort to chew. We need to have our teeth, palate, and tongue working together in order to maintain a healthy diet that includes the nutrients necessary for a healthy body. If your child is experiencing dental pain, they will most likely be unable to eat many of these foods or may favor one side of their mouth over another. While your children’s bodies are growing, so are their mouths. Harder to chew foods engage your whole mouth promoting the spreading of their palate creating a wider tooth arch. A narrow arch has the potential to create breathing issues for a child as they grow which may require additional dental or perhaps even medical intervention.
2. Primary teeth help maintain space and guide proper eruption of the permanent teeth. If a child loses primary teeth to early the adjacent teeth may drift into empty spaces and block the eruption of permanent teeth. The only way to fix the misalignment of a tooth/teeth once it has grown in, is with orthodontic treatment (braces). Along with guiding your permanent teeth, primary teeth help your child learn how to pronounce words and sounds correctly and with confidence. A child who is not afraid to speak up will more fully participate in the environment around them. While there are many reasons a child may be hesitant to speak an early lost tooth and dental pain should no be one of them.
3. Pain from cavities or other type of dental infections can interfere with your child’s ability to concentrate and learn in school and their desire to participate in activities outside of school. Additionally, unplanned dental appointments to treat an emergency will result in your child missing school or opportunities to participate in activities with peers or family.
Regular visits with your dentist will ensure that your child’s mouth stays healthy. Dentists are able to monitor your child’s oral development and identify any potential issues early allowing them to be corrected before becoming a larger problem. We want to be your partner in maintaining your child’s beautiful smile and help reinforce the habits you are encouraging at home. We are always available to answer any questions you have and we always LOVE hearing from you in-between visits!
Keeping your mouth healthy requires more than flossing, brushing and eating nutrient dense foods. While those habits are the foundation and essential to maintaining your oral health, other habits we may have picked up through out the years could be causing damage without you even realizing it. Do you have any harmful habits that could be dimming your smile? Hopefully not, but most likely you unknowing have at least one. Don’t worry,we are going to give you a few simple tips to help you break these habits with little effort.
1. Using your teeth as tools
Your teeth were made for eating, and that’s a big job! They do not like moonlighting as a pair of scissors or bottle opener when you don’t feel like searching for one (they are tired from all the chewing). Using your teeth in ways they were not designed puts you at a higher risk of fracturing or chipping teeth, injuring your jaw or accidentally swallowing something you shouldn’t have; which could cause many other issues in different areas of your body.
Solution: Forks, knifes, and, towels are all items readily available in most places that can also open that tricky packaging or bottle cap when there is no bottle opener in sight.
2. Nail Biting
This often mindless habit can fracture or chip your teeth and hurt your jaw. Putting your jaw in a protruding position while placing pressure on it can cause your jaw muscles to become tight, making it painful to move your jaw to chew or even speak.
Solution: Bitter tasting nail coverings can work for those who chew nails as a mindless or stress relieving habit. If you chew your nails out of boredom then a stick of sugar free gum could be a good substitute for that long meeting you need to sit through. If these do not help then ask a trusted friend or family member to help you break the habit by having them tell to stop biting your nails every time they see you doing so.
3. Brushing your teeth too hard
Brushing twice a day is one of the best habits you make. Some of us mistakenly think that if you brush with more force or harder then you will clean your teeth better and faster, which is a myth. In fact, brushing too hard, or with a stiff bristled brush can cause damage to your teeth and gums. If your gums are normally not red before brushing and you notice they are after, that could be a sign that you are brushing to hard.
Solution: Use a soft toothbrush and a light touch or pressure. When brushing try brushing in a circular motion instead of back an forth; and don’t death grip your toothbrush handle, hold it with the pads of your fingers. Lastly, a good electric tooth brush will take all the guess work out of the pressure and motion, because it does it for you, with a bonus of timing you so you always brush for the recommended two minutes.
It can happen to anyone. Even the super organized, meticulous planner, list making expert traveler. You arrive at your destination to find-NO TOOTHBRUSH! Well, now what?
Most hotels have complimentary toiletry items for just this type of situation. If your lodging does not offer this option and you have arrived after all the shops have closed up for the day, you are not destined for fuzzy teeth and bad breath-There are some easy short-term substitutes you have available literally, at your fingertips.
Brush your tongue with your teeth.
Using your teeth, gently scrape along your tongue to clean off any bacteria that could cause tooth decay and contribute to bad breath.
After scraping, rinse thoroughly with water-swishing back and forth vigorously to make sure that any bacteria scrapped off is washed away. Spit this water out. Don’t swallow it!
Use your finger.
First, make sure your hands are clean and that you have fully rinsed off any soap (because, yuck!). If you have a washcloth near by you can wrap it around your finger for extra scrubbing power. If you have toothpaste use it, if you forgot that too then brushing with water will be just fine for one night.
Rub your finger across your teeth and gums along the front of your teeth. Rinse your finger, add more toothpaste if you have it, and repeat on the back and top sides.
Repeat the rinse and swish as described above. Don’t swallow this water either. You don’t want to put the bacteria you just brushed off your teeth into your gut, where it has the potential to cause stomach distress, by swallowing it.
What about flossing?
There really isn’t a suitable substitute for floss. The best alternative we recommend in a pinch is a toothpick.If you don’t have a toothpick,not to worry, if you can get some floss the next morning or worst case when you return home,the risks to harming your gums and teethby using a paper clip, or string outweigh the risks of not flossing for a short period of time.
Find Supplies ASAP.
These tips will certainly help you out when you are in a bind, but are not equal in effectiveness as your regular toothpaste, brush, and floss. It is important to head to the nearest store the next morning tostock up on the necessary items you are missing.
Dr. Morris’ Secret to never forgetting his toothbrush:
“I keep an extra set of dental supplies in my travel toiletry bag. That makes it easy for me to not forget important items that I may otherwise overlook if i’m in a hurry when packing”.
In part 1 and 2 of this series we described how a dental plan works, what type of services are covered, key terms and how two insurances really work together, so you can start narrowing down your plan options. In this issue we will break down what costs to consider when comparing your plan options to make the final determination of which plan is right for you and what other options you have for keeping your smile in tip-top shape.
Deductible, Coinsurance and Copay
These are all considered out of pocket expenses in addition to the monthly or yearly premium you pay for the plan.
Deductible: The amount you need to pay before your plan will contribute towards care. Deductibles can be specified that each individual covered must meet a certain amount or as a group, make sure you are aware which it is because the difference could increase your total costs.
Coinsurance: is a fixed percentage of a treatment cost you share with your dental plan.
Copay: is the flat fee you pay for treatments and services at every visit. Typically copays are paid at the time care is received and the amount is usually printed on your card. Copays do not count towards your deductible or coinsurance.
Is there another option?
Yes! There is one more option we have for your consideration.
The Merrimack Smiles Dental Benefit Plan
We created our three prevention based plans with our patients in mind because we understand how important your oral health is to your total body health. Our plan has:
NO Deductibles NO Annual Maximums NO Coinsurance
NO Exclusions NO Copays NO Waiting Periods
Provides a fixed percentage off all treatment- NO Limitations
A full breakdown of what the plan includes and the cost can be found on our website.
We hope you found the information presented in this series beneficial. As always if you have a question about what you are seeing when choosing the plan right for you this year, give us a call! We will happily answer any and all questions you may have.
In part 1 we described how a dental plan works, what type of services are covered and what key terms to look for so you can start narrowing down your plan options. In this issue will go into detail of how two insurances work together and discuss what usual and customary charges really mean. Even armed with all the information we have provided, choosing the right plan can still be quite the task and what worked well for you one year may not in the next. Don’t forget that you have help and we are simply a phone call or email away! While we can’t pick the plan for you, we will gladly help guide you and answer any questions so that you can fully maximize the benefits you pay for each year.
Usual, Customary and Reasonable Charges (UCR)
UCR charges are the maximum allowable amounts that will be covered by the plan. UCR rates are not required to meet any sort of industry standard, in fact it is the opposite: each company is able to set whatever amount they want for UCR charge and they may not match the current actual fees charged by dentists in any given area. Adding to the ambiguity of this line item is that the company is not required to disclose the formula or data used to compute the number. Low UCR rates mean low employer cost, low employer cost equals more employer participation and greater revenue for the insurance company.
Primary and Secondary Plans
If Patient A is the subscriber to a dental plan it would be their primary plan. If Patent A has a spouse who also has a dental plan, the spouses insurance would be Patient A’s secondary plan.
Birthday Rule: primary and secondary plans are determined differently for children and are usually designated using what is called the birthday rule: assigning the primary plan by which parent’s birth month comes first in the calendar year. A divorce agreement or other court ruling may supersede the birthday rule when determining which plan is primary and secondary.
Coordination of Benefits (COB)
If you have two dental benefit plans they will coordinate benefits one of two ways.
1) Standard Coordination: The secondary insurance will coincide with the primary on all claims.
Example: Mary’s Primary plays a filling at 80%, her secondary will pay the remaining 20%.
2) Non-Duplication (Non-Dup): The Secondary Insurance will not pay anything towards services the primary paid on unless the primary is completely maxed.
Example: Mary’s primary plan has $15 dollars remaining for the benefit year and pays that amount towards her filling. Her secondary insurance will not pay towards the filling, leaving the remaining as her responsibility. During the same benefit year Mary needs a second filling. Her primary plan is now maxed and will not pay towards this filling, but her secondary plan will now begin to pay and she will have her full benefit year maximum available.
Next up part three: What is the real cost for me and do I have other options?
Picking a dental benefit plan carrier for you and your family can feel overwhelming. Between the number of plan options and variations within each one individually it can be hard to feel confident even after you’ve done your due diligence and read about each plan thoroughly.
We think that understanding your dental benefit plan or choice to not be covered under a dental plan is invaluable and have compiled our most helpful tips, descriptions and definitions so you can pick (or keep) your next plan with confidence.
Understanding My Dental Plan
Using the term “insurance” for dental plans is not a truthful representation of what your plan actually is. It is not a payment to cover a loss, catastrophic event, or accident as your medical, auto or home insurance will. It is a benefit provided by employers to help employees cover the cost of dental care. Typically an employer will purchase a plan based on the amount of the benefit and cost of the premium for the company or employee. Think of your plan as a benefit plan that your employer contributes towards which will help to offset or subsidize the cost of your dental care.
How Dental Plans Work
Dental plans are a contract between your employer and insurance company. Your employer and insurer agree on the amount your plan pays and what procedures are covered. If you are not satisfied with your plans coverage or insurer experience, talk with your employer to let them know how it could be improved or changed.
Key Terms to Compare When Looking at Plans
Plan Year: What months does you plan year start and end? Most plans follow the calendar year (Jan-Dec) or have a benefit mid-year start/end (June-July).
Benefit year Maximum: What your annual maximum benefit dollar amount is for individual and family? Preventative and diagnostic treatments will count towards your maximum benefit for the plan year.
Waiting periods: Are there any waiting periods before you are able to use your benefits? If so, are those benefits something you had planned or needed to use right away? Do you have the ability to wait?
Age Limitations: Some plans have age limitations on service. This means that your insurance will only provide coverage up to or after a certain age.
Frequencies: How often does your plan cover specific treatments? It is important to look at what treatments you and your family use most or know that you have coming in the next year. Even if this insurance plan is new to you, companies share history and frequency, so limitations will still apply.
Percentage of coverage for:
Preventative/Diagnostic-including dental examinations, x-rays, cleanings and topical application of fluoride.
Basic Restorative– including fillings, routine extractions, root canals, periodontal treatments, & sealants.
Major Restorative and Prosthodontics-including Surgical extractions, crowns, bridges & implants.
Orthodontics-including braces or other appliances. Age limitations and lifetime benefit may apply.
Read Part 2 : Important terminology to know before choosing a plan
Maybe a better question would be- How do I know if I fully used the value of my dental insurance plan this year?
The simplest answer is: We try to do that work for you and help to make sure that you are always getting the best value out of your individual dental insurance plan.
Before each and every visit we send pre-determinations, research your insurance coverage, usage and limitations, and do our very best to communicate with you along the way regarding the information we are receiving. Hopefully, this helps you read and understand the copy of the pre-determination and explanation of benefit (EOB) statements that your dental insurance company sends to you.
What does this mean for me?
Since December 31st marks the end of the benefit year for most dental plans, it means that any remaining dollars available to you that you have already paid for, by paying your monthly premium will be lost.
What can I do to prevent losing my benefits at the end of the year?
You can log into your dental insurance companies’ user portal or callyour insurance company to ask then exactly what type of coverage and how much you have remaining.
You can give us a call and we can help walk you though it. We can help you determine what remains unused and how to maximize your dental insurance plan to it’s fullest.
If you have any remaining dental benefits and dental care that you need completed, NOW is the time to schedule an appointment.
By delaying treatment, you risk more extensive and expensive treatment down the road. Even if you’re unable to complete treatment this year, you can at least get the ball rolling and use any leftover benefits, then in the New Year when you dental benefit renews, you can return to complete treatment. What may be a simplecavity now, could turn into a root canal later if left untreated.
Don’t Forget About Your Flexible Spending Account
Your dental insurance benefits may not be the only benefit that you could lose if you don’t use them by the end of the year. Not all employers allow you to roll over your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) funds at the end of each year. That means if you don’t use it, you lose it!
Electric toothbrushes, whitening strips, and our OxyFresh products all qualify as FSA approved expenses & double as a great practical gifts for your friends and family.
So, if you are drowning in cold medicine and have enough band aids in stock, why don’t you stop by the office and pick up a toothbrush this year instead! Or use what you have left to pay for the dental care that you may need!
October marks the start of the celebration season filled with sweet treatsand delicious hot drinks. It also means that our mouths and teeth will have to fend off constants attacks from sugar. If we are being honest with ourselves, there is absolutely NO WAY we won’t be consuming any of the delicious treats and drinks offered up this season. Fortunately, there is a better way we can consume sugary treats that will keep our mouths and teeth safe from harm. Read on for our 3 tips to help you safely enjoy your treats this fall and holiday season.
1. Length of time it takes you to eat or drink your treat
For your teeth it is less about the amount of cavity-causing foods and drinks you are consuming and more about how long it takes you do so. The duration our teeth are exposed to sugar the better. Bacteria in our mouth convert sugar to acid, it’s the length of time your teeth are exposed to this acid that can cause the most damage. For example, sucking on a hard candy or slowly sipping on hot chocolate can cause more damage than eating a piece of chocolate or cookie monster-ing a cookie.
2. Wait 30 minutes before brushing your teeth
It may be tempting to brush immediately after eating but it is best to wait for at least 30 minutes after consumption. The acid created by the sugar consumed can make your tooth enamel (top layer of the teeth) weak making it easier to be scrubbed away by a toothbrush. Waiting 30 minutes will allow the enamel to re-strengthen and become safe to brush. If you can’t wait the 30 minutes then our third tip- drinking water- is your best option!
3. Rinse with or drink water
There is a good reason why water is the champion of beverages! Among its many benefits, water will also dilute the acid and help to wash it from your mouth, reducing its potential to cause harm. Eat your treats with water instead of hot chocolate or alternate drinking water with a sugary beverage. If you can remember to swish it around yourmouth before you swallow (or spit) it that will help to remove most ofthe acid from your mouth and teeth.
We all know the feeling. A sharp unexpected pain when you bite into your sandwich, take a sip of water or a breath on a cool day. It does not feel good and can even make you wince. So, the question is- what happened? Why are my teeth suddenly sensitive?
While tooth sensitivity can happen for many reasons the root cause generally can be explained by one of a handful of common issues, which your dentist can expertly help identify by using a method called differential diagnosis. Differential diagnosis is a process that medical professionals use to correctly identify the cause of tooth pain in an instance where multiple alternatives are possible.
First, your dentist will need to know if the pain is associated with multiple teeth or one tooth. There are specific reasons for one or a few teeth to suddenly become sensitive such as a cavity, crack, fracture, receding gums, or an abscess. If one or more of your teeth have any of these issues then your dentist will help you identify the next steps to take and treatment options to help you get back on track with the goal of a pain free healthy mouth.
If none of your teeth have any of those described issues then your dentist will know that your teeth/tooth has become sensitive as a result of an outside factor such as:
Are you stressed? Even when we think we are dealing with our stress levels very well on the outside our bodies can still show signs of wear and tear as a result, and one of the first places to experience any discomfort is our mouths. We clench and grind our teeth when stressed, most of the time without even realize that we are doing it. Which is why when your jaw is tired and your teeth hurt it can feel like it came out of nowhere, when in reality it has slowly been building overtime. Have you ever woken up with a sore or tired feeling jaw and sensitive teeth? It’s because often times we do the most clenching and grinding in our sleep, and if we are not aware of it during the day it is almost impossible to be aware of it while asleep.
Have you been sick? Sinus colds will make all of your teeth feel very sensitive to any type of vibration from even the softest steps, orfrom the constant coughing and nose blowing. Also, the cough drops that we all have the best intention of only sucking on but sometimes crunch and chew after a while may have caused a crack or fracture.
Did you whiten your teeth? Using any type of teeth whitening products, whether over the counter or in your dentist’s office can result in a temporary sensitivity of your teeth.
Have you had any recent dental work? Sometimes, the slight change in your bite from a new filling or simply holding your mouth open for a longer period of time can cause you to begin to clench and grind your teeth causing tooth sensitivity and pain. This is why your dentist asks you to bite down on a colored piece of paper after a filling or crown. The colored paper leaves marks on your tooth surfaces recording your bite so that your dentist can see if all your teeth are hitting in the right spots. They also rely on you to tell them if it feels comfortable since sometimes our mouths can look fine but feel slightly off. It is also normal to feel like your bite is fine in the office but within a few days realize that it actually feels slightly off. Simply call us and we will get you right in for a bite adjustment.
Do I have to live with tooth sensitivity forever? Absolutely not! Luckily there are many ways that we can help you defeat tooth sensitivity! Occlusal guards can help relieve the clenching and grinding. Fluoride toothpastes and treatments, which are available inour office, will help protect and strengthen your enamel against sensitivity resulting from acidic foods and whitening. In office sealants and fluoride treatments will also help to prevent the development of cavities and reduce the likelihood of sensitivity due to tooth decay or compromised tooth structure. Most importantly if you are experiencing tooth sensitivity that you feel is negatively impacting your life and has not resolved with a bit of time and attention on your own, call us so we can help you get back to your life tooth pain free! The more information you can give the better andwe have the years of knowledge to help you quickly get back to your life with stronger teeth and a healthier mouth!
In recent years there has been a plethora of studies revolving around the links that exist between your oral health and systemic health (total body health). These studies have consistently revealed that inflammatory diseases, such as periodontal disease, compromise the body’s ability to fight infections and can worsen systemic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. More recently a link has been discovered that inflammation in your mouth, such as periodontal disease, can affect your brain health and function, contributing to the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). It is important to make note that there have been no studies that have proven that periodontal disease causes AD, only that there is a plausible link between specific types of bacteria associated with periodontal disease and the increased risk of developing AD.
How can there be a link between the bacteria in your mouth and the rest of your body? The most common ways bacteria can reach other areas of your body is through the bloodstream. If your gums bleed when you chew, floss, and brush, bacteria from your mouth (periodontal bacteria) will enter your bloodstream and travel throughout your body. The bacteria is usually contained by the immune cells of the body. However, in people with a reduced or weakened immune system, the bacteria is able to travel throughout the body more easily.
In two different studies with 2,415 subjects over the age of 60, it was found that those who did not have AD at the start but developed it over the course of the study had periodontal dental disease present prior to developing AD. The subjects which developed AD did have higher levels of antibodies to the periodontal bacteria suggesting that they body was already attempting to fight the bacteria, support the timing that the infectious periodontal disease was present before the AD developed.
It means that taking care of your teeth and gums at any age is important. Whether you have or have not been diagnosed with periodontal disease, continue your regular visits to your dentist as prescribed, maintain a consistent and effective oral hygiene routine at home, and keep the rest of your body as healthy as possible.
Making these healthy choices is going to help reduce and/or eliminate the presence of periodontal disease. Using products that help reduce tooth decay such as fluoride and sealants,mouth rinses or gels, getting regular professional dental cleanings, and monitoring bone loss with regular exams and x-rays are also important steps in maintaining a healthy mouth. Your Dentist and Dental Hygienist are experts in the topic of oral and total body health and can help provide education and suggestions for improving home care in between visits. They are your partners in health and want you to say as healthy as possible! So the next time you see them ask as many questions as you can think of. Write them down as you think of them and bring your list to your next appointment! If you have any concerns, no matter how “small” you think it may be, please mention it. To us, it’s all important!