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Teens and Gum Disease

April 17th, 2024

You have a lot going on. School. Sports. Activities. Family. Friends. Teens lead busy lives and have busy schedules, so you need to budget your time and energy. One thing you don’t want to spend any of your time and energy on? Dealing with gum disease.

Gum disease most often begins as a reaction to plaque and tartar. The bacteria in plaque produce acids which irritate gum tissue, causing inflammation, swelling, and bleeding. This is gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease.

Left untreated, early gum disease can become periodontitis. Periodontitis is a serious gum infection which can cause receding gums, loose teeth, and even tooth and bone loss.

We usually think about gum disease as something that only older adults worry about. But the unfortunate fact is that children and teens are also at risk for gum disease—and the teen years bring special risks. Why?

  • Braces

The teen years are the most common years for orthodontic treatment. Wearing traditional or lingual braces can make removing plaque from around brackets and wires, between the teeth, and near the gum line more challenging, and gum disease can be the result. When you’ve been working so hard to create a healthy attractive smile, you don’t want to delay your orthodontic progress to treat gum disease.

  • Less-than-Nutritious Snacking

When you have after school commitments like sports practices, play rehearsals, or work, you probably carry a snack to give you the energy you need until dinner. Popular snacks like energy drinks, chips, or candy bars are common go-to choices, but they contain acids, simple carbs, and sugars which are bad for both gums and tooth enamel.

  • Hormones

Increased hormone levels during puberty can make the gums more sensitive and more easily irritated.

  • Your Busy Life

Maybe you’re not getting enough sleep. Or eating as well as you could. Or you’re feeling anxious. Lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and stress can affect your body’s immune system and your ability to fight off infection. And if you’re also not brushing and flossing regularly, your gum health can really suffer.

How do you know if you have gum disease? Good question! Sometimes the early stages of gum disease aren’t obvious. Perhaps you’ve noticed changes in your gums, such as:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Soreness
  • Bleeding
  • Bad breath even after brushing

Any of these changes can be symptoms of gum disease and are a good reason to give our Fort Myers, FL office a call, since time is important when treating gum disease.

Caught early, gingivitis is usually very treatable—in fact, you can often reverse early gingivitis by paying more attention to your daily dental hygiene. If gingivitis is more advanced, or if periodontitis develops, you need professional dental care to prevent serious damage to your gums, teeth, and bone.

Preventing gum disease from ever developing is always best, though, so let’s look at what you can do to keep gum disease from becoming a problem.

  • Keep Up with Healthy Dental Habits

Even though you’re leading a busy life, take time for your dental care. Brushing twice a day for at least two minutes per session and flossing once a day take just a bit of your time and are the best way to keep your gums healthy. If you wear braces or have a tendency toward cavities and gum disease, Dr. Favalli might recommend brushing or flossing more often.

  • Use the Right Tools

Using the right tools makes a big difference. You should always choose a toothbrush with soft bristles to protect your delicate gum tissue—especially if it’s extra sensitive. Too-harsh brushing can damage even your super-hard tooth enamel, so you can imagine what it can do to your gums! Change out your brush every three to four months when it starts to get frayed and worn.

If you wear braces, ask Dr. Favalli to recommend the best kind of floss to clean between your teeth and around your brackets and wires. The right tools will make flossing a lot easier, and will help you keep your gums healthy and your orthodontic treatment on track.

  • No Matter How Busy You Are, Treat Yourself Well

Watch your diet. Drinking water to hydrate is a healthy (and inexpensive) alternative to sugary and acidic drinks. When you know you have after-school commitments, pack yourself a healthy snack. After snacking, it’s a good idea to rinse with water when you can’t brush to remove any food particles sticking around your teeth and gums.

And even though your schedule is demanding, caring for your mind and body should be a priority. If you have difficulties with sleep or stress, or questions about a nutritious diet, talk to your doctor for some valuable tips to make your daily life healthier and more enjoyable.

With so much going on in your active life, gum problems are problems you really don’t need. Make room in your schedule now for careful daily brushing and flossing, a healthy lifestyle, and regular visits to Lakes Park Children's Dentistry & Orthodontics, and you’ll be living that active life with a beautiful, healthy smile!

What is early intervention?

April 10th, 2024

Many developing orthodontic problems can be intercepted and corrected if diagnosed and treated at an early age. Dr. Favalli and our team at Lakes Park Children's Dentistry & Orthodontics recommend children have their first orthodontic evaluation no later than age seven, or younger if the front four permanent teeth have replaced the baby teeth. Early treatment, also known as interceptive treatment or Phase I treatment, provides both timely detection of problems and greater opportunity for more effective treatment. Early intervention guides growth and development, preventing serious problems later.

If your child is showing these signs, it may be time to think about early orthodontic treatment:

  • Early or late loss of baby teeth (your child should typically start losing teeth around age five or six, and will have all their permanent teeth in around age 12 to 13)
  • Difficulty chewing and/or biting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Sucking his or her thumb
  • Speech impediment
  • Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other)
  • Crowded front teeth
  • Teeth that don't come together in a normal manner or even at all

Early intervention will greatly reduce the severity of your child’s case, and therefore reduce the length of treatment time and cost for a second phase of treatment when all of his or her permanent teeth have erupted. An evaluation at our Fort Myers, FL office will determine if your child’s dental and skeletal growth is proceeding properly or if interceptive treatment is needed. Many times, a more severe problem can be corrected using sophisticated removable appliances instead of traditional orthodontic treatment.

To schedule a consultation for your child to visit with Dr. Favalli, please give us a call! We will provide your child with an initial exam, and discuss with you the best steps to take toward caring for your child's smile.

Brushing Tips for Kids

April 3rd, 2024

You’re all set for your happy morning and nighttime ritual. You’ve provided your son with his favorite action hero toothbrush and your daughter with her favorite flavored toothpaste. You’ve gotten them into the healthy habit of two minutes of brushing twice each day. You’ve introduced them to flossing. You have favorite brushing songs! Stickers! Gold stars! And, best of all, you’re teaching great brushing techniques.

Kids need the same basic brushing tools and skills as adults. What makes for the best cleaning?

Find the right brush

No matter how cute—or heroic—the brush, it needs to have soft bristles to protect enamel and delicate gum tissue. The head should be a perfect fit for your child’s mouth. And if the handle is easy to grip and hold, you have a winner.

Find the right toothpaste

The bubblegum flavor might appeal to your child, but it’s the fluoride that helps to prevent cavities. Talk to us about the right time to start using fluoride toothpaste and the right amount for your child’s brush.

Teach your child the angles

If your child is too young to brush alone, start geometry lessons early. Holding the brush at a 45-degree angle toward the gums will clean bacteria and plaque from the tooth surface and the gum line. And don’t forget the chewing surfaces and the insides of the teeth. When your child begins brushing on her own, coach her as she learns the best way to clean all the surfaces of her teeth.

Easy does it

Teeth and gums should be massaged, not scrubbed. Brushing too hard can damage not only tender gum tissue, but even your child’s enamel.

Learn to let go

No matter how comfortable and appealing the brush, after three or four months, it’s time for a change. Frayed bristles don’t clean as effectively, and making up for it by brushing harder isn’t the answer (see above). Also, toothbrushes can build up quite a collection of bacteria over time (see below), so a fresh brush is a must!

Everything in its place

A toothbrush should dry thoroughly between uses without touching other brushes. Placing a brush in a plastic container doesn’t let it dry and encourages bacterial growth. And a toothbrush needs its own space—touching toothbrush heads means sharing toothbrush bacteria. The best way to keep toothbrushes as dry and as germ-free as possible is to store them upright, without touching other brushes, in a clean, well-ventilated area.

Rinse and repeat

Your child should rinse his toothbrush before and after using it, and be sure to rinse his mouth as well. That should get rid of any leftover food particles brushing has removed.

Finally, keep up the good work! As you teach your child proper brushing techniques, and make sure she uses them as she grows, you are preparing her for a lifetime of great checkups with Dr. Favalli at our Fort Myers, FL office. Give yourself a gold star—you’ve earned it!

Aftercare After Extraction

March 27th, 2024

Orthodontists do everything they can to save teeth, but sometimes, a tooth is so damaged by accident, injury, infection, or decay that extraction is the only option. Or perhaps your child’s wisdom teeth are starting to come in—and starting to cause problems. Or, when this is the healthiest alternative, an extraction might be necessary for orthodontic reasons.

While there are several possible reasons an extraction might be necessary, one thing is true for any extraction: you want to make sure that your child is as comfortable as possible and heals as quickly as possible after the procedure.

Aftercare and recovery time isn’t exactly the same for every extraction. Whether your child’s tooth is a baby tooth or a permanent one, whether it’s a single tooth or several, whether it’s erupted or impacted, whether a local anesthetic or sedation is recommended—these factors and more can make a difference in recovery time.

Dr. Favalli will provide you with clear, specific instructions for helping your child to a speedy recovery after an extraction. We’d also like to offer you some general aftercare ideas to make sure your child is as comfortable as possible while recovering.

  • Bleeding

Some bleeding is normal after an extraction. Follow your dentist or oral surgeon’s instructions carefully to minimize bleeding at the extraction site. Your child will probably need to keep a gauze pack in place for as long as directed to reduce bleeding and to help a clot form. If bleeding is heavier than expected or goes on longer than expected, call our Fort Myers, FL office.

  • Swelling

Swelling is a normal response to extractions. Your dentist might suggest cold compresses to help reduce swelling immediately after the extraction. If you don’t have an ice pack, ask whether a bag of frozen peas or corn can substitute.

With any cold compress, it’s important to protect your child’s skin from injury. Follow your dentist’s suggestions for application and be sure not to exceed the time limits recommended. And don’t apply a compress directly to your child’s face—wrap a towel or cloth around the bag or pack to protect the skin.

  • Careful Cleaning

The area around the extraction shouldn’t be disturbed or touched. The blood clot that forms after an extraction protects the area from irritation and infection caused by food particles and bacteria. If a clot is dislodged accidentally, it can lead to a condition called dry socket, which can be very painful.

This means no brushing near the extraction site, and no heavy rinsing or spitting for as long as directed. If your child is younger, you might need to help with brushing over the days following to make sure those sturdy bristles don’t get close to the extraction site before it’s healed.

  • Soothing Foods

Have a supply of your child’s favorite comfort foods handy while healing, such as cream soups, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, gelatin, yogurt, and smoothies. Hot and cold foods can be irritating, so stick to cool or lukewarm foods for the first few days. Encourage your child to drink lots of liquids, but nothing carbonated. And do wait until any numbness wears off before giving your child chewable foods to avoid biting tongue or cheeks.

Remove spicy favorites from the menu, which can be irritating, as well as chewy, crunchy, or jagged foods like crackers, since tiny, sharp bits of food can make their way inside the site. Remind your child to chew on the side of the mouth opposite from the extraction site. And, since suction is an all-too-easy way to dislodge the clot over the extraction site, no straws!

  • Schedule Recovery Time

Make sure your child rests and takes it easy after the procedure. Exercise, lifting, even bending over can dislodge a protective clot, so re-schedule any physically demanding sports and activities until your child is given the dental all clear.

  • Medication

If your child has been given a prescription for pain medication or antibiotics, follow the instructions as directed. Dr. Favalli might recommend age-appropriate over the counter pain relievers to have on hand. For severe or continuing pain, call your orthodontist or oral surgeon right away.

  • Coordinate Dental Schedules

Orthodontic extractions, if needed, will be scheduled into your child’s orthodontic treatment plan. Treatment can begin or resume when the extraction site has healed.

If an emergency extraction is necessary, call our Fort Myers, FL office so we can be aware of the situation and can coordinate with your child’s dentist or oral surgeon to keep treatment on track as much as possible.

An extraction can be worrying for both patient and parent, so talk to your orthodontist for the best ways to make this experience a positive one for your child before, during, and after treatment.

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