How Does the Food We Eat Affect Our Teeth?

As obesity runs rampant in the US, people are more acutely aware of how food affects their bodies in terms of fat content and calories, but do you know the effects food has on your body before it even reaches your stomach?

We know that sugary foods are bad for our teeth, but why exactly?

When you take a bite of food, you’re not just feeding yourself.  The bacteria in your mouth feasts as well, and sugar happens to be one of its favorite meals.  While the bacteria is feeding on the sugar, it’s giving off an acid byproduct that strips enamel off your teeth. The longer the sugar sits in your mouth, the longer the bacteria feeds on it. (Which is why some experts say snacking is harmful to your teeth.)  If the acid attacks your teeth for a prolonged period of time, more of the enamel is weakened and stripped away.

To prevent tooth enamel erosion, avoid the sugar.  Instead, opt for nutritious foods like cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, or a piece of fruit.  On top of that, limit the amount of snacks you consume.  Each time you eat, the acid is attacking your teeth for about 20 minutes after the last time you swallow.  If you’re constantly eating snacks, your mouth has less of a chance to neutralize itself and get rid of the acid.

Gum Disease in Children

Gum disease doesn’t discriminate by age.  It’ll find any worthy victim who doesn’t have good oral health.  In fact, the primary cause of gum disease in kids is bacteria and plaque buildup that results from not brushing or flossing.

Other causes of gum disease in children include genetics, gums drying out due to breathing through the mouth, malnutrition, autoimmune diseases, and certain medications.  Kids with type I diabetes and Down syndrome are at a higher risk of periodontal disease.

Gum disease starts off as gingivitis but left unchecked, it can progress to periodontitis.  If it becomes severe enough, a periodontist will have to perform significant treatment to prevent further damage to the bone and surrounding tissue.


  • Gums that bleed with regular flossing and brushing of the teeth
  • Bright red gums that are swollen and tender
  • Receding gums
  • Bad breath that persists even after brushing and flossing


Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to prevent gum disease in children.  As with adults, children should brush their teeth twice a day with a kid-friendly toothpaste (the ADA has an approved list) and a soft-bristled toothbrush.

But don’t leave it up to them! Until a child is about 6 or 7 years ago, they don’t have the manual dexterity it takes to do a thorough job, so you’ll need to maintain responsibility until that time.

When their toothy grins still have space between the teeth, you won’t need to worry about flossing.  As soon as two teeth emerge that are touching, your child should floss daily to remove leftover food particles that attract cavity-causing bacteria.

Make sure you’re scheduling biannual visits to the dentist also!  Dentists can detect gingivitis early and assess whether your child is receiving proper dental care at home.

Everything You Need to Know About Teething

Lucky for you, cutting teeth doesn’t happen all at once. (So you have about three fussy years ahead of you!)  Transitioning from their gummy grin to a mouthful of pearly whites takes about three years to complete.  By the age of 3, your little one should have a complete set of chompers to care for (but you’ll need to help out for a few more years until he gets better at it).


Even before your baby made his entrance into the world, his teeth were developing.  In the womb, tooth buds, or milk teeth, start to form.  Although it is possible for a baby to be born with teeth, most will sprout their first tooth between 4 and 7 months old.

Want to know the exact order of emergence of your child’s teeth? Check out this guide.


If you’re one of the lucky ones, your baby will breeze straight through the teething process.  If you’re one of us, the tired ones who go through every trick in the book to ease the pain, you’ll probably be experiencing a few of these symptoms:

  • Drooling (which can lead to a facial rash)
  • Gum swelling and sensitivity
  • Irritability or fussiness
  • Biting behavior
  • Refusing food
  • Sleep problems

It’s important to note that teething can cause a variety of problems, but if the symptom worries you and you’re not sure of the exact cause, check with your doctor as soon as possible.


There’s no miracle cure to speed up the process, but you can try a few tricks to help ease the pain.

  • Try using a frozen washcloth, refrigerated pacifer or teether, or a frozen carrot (a large one so that you can hold on to one end).
  • Rub your baby’s gums with a clean finger.  The pressure distracts their brains from the pain.
  • Try an over-the-counter, topical anesthetic to numb the gums. Be aware of 2 hazards associated with numbing gel: 1) The FDA warns that benzocaine productsshouldn’t be used on children under 2 without guidance from a doctor.  In rare cases, it causes methemoglobinemia, a condition in which the amount of oxygen in the blood drops to dangerous levels. 2) Your baby might swallow some of the medication with their saliva, numbing his throat and relaxing his gag reflex which could cause choking.
  • Check with your doctor (again, check with your doctor) and they might suggest an over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen (but NEVER aspirin!)
  • Some parents swear by homeopathic teething drops and tablets, but the FDA has recalled many of these products due to safety concerns.  Check with your doctor first.
  • Who better to ask than other parents dealing with the same issue? Check out the suggestions from a few other parents at BabyCenter.

Even before the first tooth emerges, you should be cleaning your baby’s gums at least twice a day by gently wiping them with a clean piece of gauze or washcloth.  Once the first tooth erupts, pull out the toothbrush! Make sure it’s soft-bristled and size appropriate for your little one, and gently brush the tooth with water.  When two teeth appear that are touching, you should start flossing.


Sit tight and try to maintain some sanity.  The teething process will take about three years.  After that, you’ve got about a three year break before you debut in your new role as the Tooth Fairy.

15 Facts and Myths Concerning Cavities

  1. Sugar is the prime cause of cavities.

Myth, but almost a fact. In reality, bacteria in your mouth produces acid, which then attacks your teeth.  The bacteria is triggered by carbohydrates — including sugar.  Rice, potatoes, bread, and fruits and vegetables are also culprits.

And it’s all downhill from there.  Once the bacteria eats through your teeth, they have a little hole to live in where your toothbrush and floss can’t reach.

Interestingly, it’s not the amount of carbohydrates you eat that causes tooth decay, but the length of time your teeth are exposed. If you eat a lot of carbs for lunch, that’s one big exposure. But if you spend the day sipping sugary drinks, that’s continuous exposure — and much more dangerous for your teeth.

“’Sip all day and get decay.’”

  1. Exposure to acidic foods like lemons causes tooth decay. 

Fact. Acidic foods such as lemons, citrus juices, or soft drinks don’t cause cavities, but they may be putting your enamel in danger.

“Acids can cause erosion of the tooth-protecting enamel,” says Dr. Verwest “weakening the tooth. If you lose the enamel’s protection and expose the underlying dentin, your tooth is now more prone to decay.”

  1. Kids are a lot more likely to get cavities than adults. 

Myth. With the help of sealants, fluoridated water, and preventative care, “we’ve actually cut decay in school-aged children by half in the last 20 years,” says Verwest.

However, there’s been an increase in cavities in senior citizens “because they have some unique circumstances,” according to Verwest. Some medications dry out the mouth, for example, reducing saliva. Saliva is vital in fighting tooth decay because it helps neutralize acids, has a disinfectant quality, washes away bacteria, and helps prevent food from sticking to your teeth.

  1. Aspirin placed next to a tooth will help a toothache. 

Myth.  Actually swallowing the aspirin is what helps reduce toothache pain. Since aspirin is acidic, placing it beside the tooth can actually burn your gum tissue, causing an abscess.

  1. All fillings eventually need replacing. 

Myth. An amalgam or composite filling needs to be replaced if it breaks down or a cavity forms around it, or if the tooth fractures, Harms tells WebMD. If none of those problems occur, you can keep the same filling for life.

“Fillings do have a life expectancy,” says Verwest, but it depends on things like tooth wear and oral hygiene habits. If you brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste, and floss or use an interdental cleaner once a day, you’ll have less tooth decay and your fillings may last longer, she says.

  1. If you have a cavity, you’ll know it. 

Myth. Mild tooth decay doesn’t cause symptoms. The pain we associate with cavities comes when tooth decay is more advanced and causes damage to the nerve.

Allowing tooth decay to advance to this stage can result in more intensive treatment plans, like root canals.

Also, once a cavity starts, it doesn’t repair itself. A cavity “will always grow once you get to a point where you can’t clean it out any longer.” Once decay gets into the dentin of the tooth — below the enamel — it just continues to grow.

  1. Once a tooth is treated, the decaying stops. 

Fact.  This doesn’t mean that particular tooth is immune to decay for the rest of your life, but the particular decay that was treated is completely gone. Once you get a cavity filled — and if you maintain good brushing and flossing techniques — you typically won’t get decay in that spot again.

Verwest adds one caveat: “Sometimes a filling gets old and the margins where it meets the tooth begin to break down or pull away, and because you can’t reach it to clean it out, bacteria can get in there and decay can begin again.”

  1. Cavities are more likely to occur between teeth. 

Fact.  Cavities are more common anywhere that bacteria can get to that you can’t.  Between the teeth is a typical area of concern because the majority of people are not flossing regularly or at all.  The deep groves on the back of your front teeth and the fissures in your molars are also susceptible to bacteria and decay.

  1. Gaps in teeth encourage cavities. 

Fact. If you have a small gap between your teeth and can’t clean it, you’re more likely to develop tooth decay there.

“Bigger gaps are easier to keep clean,” says Verwest, and as long as they are free of bacteria, big gaps are less likely to develop tooth decay.

  1. Chips and cracks in teeth lead to decay. 

Fact. If cracks and chips create a hiding place for bacteria, a spot where your toothbrush can’t reach, those areas are more prone to tooth decay.

“Lately we’re seeing more and more cracks in teeth because people are grinding,” Verwest says. “Stress, worries about the economy, it makes some people grind their teeth more. … Stress can play an important role in tooth health.”

  1. Sensitivity in teeth means you have decay. 

Myth. Tooth sensitivity could just mean you have hypersensitive teeth or gum recession has exposed some root surface.  You could also have a cracked or broken tooth or could need a root canal. Decay can obviously lead to sensitivity, but there are other causes as well.

  1. Cavities are the prime reason for root canals. 

Myth. You need a root canal if the nerve inside a tooth is damaged. Untreated cavities may eventually lead to nerve damage, but there other causes, too.

“Cracks, fractures, or other types of trauma to the tooth can also cause nerve damage,” Verwest says. In many cases “clenching and grinding can traumatize the tooth severely enough to need root canal therapy.”

  1. Clenching and grinding leads to cavities. 

Myth and (sometimes) fact. “Clenching and grinding is one of the most destructive things you can do to your teeth,” says Verwest. With normal chewing, teeth touch for mere milliseconds, suffering very little stress. But clenching and grinding puts tremendous pressure on your teeth for extended periods.

That strain “can eventually cause damage and cracks and fractures of your teeth,” says Verwest. If those fractures expose the weaker dentin, tooth decay can form at a faster rate. “Typically grinding and clenching lead to the need for crowns to restore the fractured tooth or root canal therapy to treat the traumatized nerve.”

  1. You don’t need to worry about cavities in baby teeth. 

Myth, myth, MYTH! Baby teeth hold the space for permanent teeth. “If cavities are left untreated in baby teeth, they can develop into serious pain and abscesses.

“Occasionally, the infection can spread to other areas of the body and in rare occasions can even result in death,” says Harms.

  1. Brushing and flossing is the best way to prevent cavities. 

Fact. “Absolutely! Prevention is the key,” Verwest tells patients. You need to remove bacteria from teeth by flossing and brushing twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste. If bacteria are removed daily from every area of your tooth, “you won’t get cavities,” promises Verwest.

Emergency Dental Care for Children

Hopefully this falls into that “Things You Know but Hopefully Never Have to Use” category, but it’s better to be prepared for your child’s dental emergency than to scramble if it actually happens.

First and foremost, it’s important to have a family dentist you can trust who also has emergency care after hours.  If you can’t get a hold of your dentist within half an hour of the incident, visit the hospital’s emergency room.

Always seek professional help, but in the meantime, here are a few things you can do for the following emergencies:

Broken Tooth:

Recover any broken tooth fragments that you can, and then rinse your mouth with warm salt water.  If your child has any pain, you can administer ibuprofen and put a cold compress over the facial area of the injury.

Missing Tooth:

If the missing tooth is a baby tooth, then there is no need to keep the tooth.  Dentists will not restore the actual tooth to avoid damage to the permanent tooth below.  They may opt for a spacer to avoid overcrowding before the permanent tooth is ready to erupt.

If your child loses a permanent tooth, find the tooth if possible and hold it by the crown rather than the root. Replace the tooth in the socket, and hold it in place with a clean gauze or washcloth.  If you can’t replace the tooth in the socket, store it in a clean container with milk until you reach the dentist.  The sooner you act, the better your chances of saving the tooth!

Broken Braces or Wires:

If the broken piece comes out easily (and we mean really easily – no tugging or pulling!), remove it.  If you can’t remove it but the broken pieces are poking other areas of the mouth, cover the protruding edges with wax, cotton balls, gauze, or sugarless gum. If the broken wire has caused any sores in your child’s mouth, have them rinse it out with warm salt water.  You can also use an over-the-counter pain reliever.

If the broken appliance isn’t causing any physical pain or discomfort, it generally does not require emergency medical attention, but you should seek help as soon as possible because broken braces or wires will not help move the teeth.

Bitten Lip, Tongue, or Cheek

Apply firm pressure with sterile gauze or a clean cloth to reduce bleeding. Ice can be applied to the outside facial area for any bruises.  Because the mouth is quick to heal itself, most wounds will be treated to reduce the risk of infection, but won’t require any further action.

Pediatric Dentistry of Ft. Myers Ante’s Up For Autism

FORT MYERS, Fla. (March 11, 2015) – Pediatric Dentistry of Ft. Myers, Dr. Tim Verwest, DMD will be the wild card sponsor at the 4th annual Ante Up for Autism Casino Night on Friday, April 10, 2015 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. All proceeds collected will benefit Peace by Piece Center for Children with Autism in Ft. Myers.

peace by piece

“After visiting with the children from Peace by Piece for a dental presentation we were made aware of how autism effects our community. We knew right away that we wanted to help support this wonderful cause,” said Dr. Tim Verwest, DMD of Pediatric Dentistry of Ft. Myers.

The mission of Peace by Piece is to provide research based behavior analytic and educational services to children with autism and other developmental disabilities, in an environment that is surrounded with unconditional love, patience, support, and respect. For more information on sponsorship opportunities, please call Peace by Piece Center for Children with Autism at (239) 245-8301 or (239) 850-0802.

Pediatric Dentistry of Ft Myers, Dr. Tim Verwest, DMD, continues to provide pediatric dental care to children for over 25 years. Areas of service include comprehensive dental exams, cleanings, composite fillings, dental hygiene education, extractions, fluoride treatments, sealants, sedation dentistry, space maintainers, x-rays and tooth nerve treatment. For more information, visit or (239) 482-2722.

7 Reasons You and Your Child Should Get Your Teeth Cleaned

It’s hard to get to the dentist.  There’s no doubt about that.  And without any noticeable pain or discomfort, it’s easy to keep putting it off until absolutely necessary.  In the long run, however, it’s much cheaper – a much less painful – to schedule regular visits to the dentist than to wait for a problem to arise, which often leads to expensive work like root canals or crowns.  If you don’t have an hour to spare for a quick cleaning, you definitely don’t have a spare day to be out of commission with a toothache.

Exam Room

Besides the clean, healthy feeling you’ll get from a biannual cleaning, here are 10 great reasons to pick up the phone and get in that dental chair:

  1. Prevent oral cancer.

You may not be aware that you’re screened for oral cancer each time you have a dental cleaning.  According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, an American dies every hour from oral cancer, despite the fact that it is highly curable with an early diagnosis.

  1. Fight off gum disease.

Gum disease is one of the leading causes of adult tooth loss, but it can be treated and reversed with an early diagnosis.  If it goes undetected, it will continue to worsen.

  1. Be heart healthy.

Studies have linked heart attacks and strokes to gum disease caused by poor oral hygiene.

  1. Preserve your smile.

Tooth decay and gum disease ultimately lead to teeth falling out or being pulled out.  To keep all of your pearly whites intact, visit a dentist regularly.

  1. Detect dental problems early.

Most serious oral health complications can be prevented and possibly even reversed with early detection.

  1. Know you’re doing it right.

You care for your teeth every day twice a day, but a dentist can confirm whether or not your efforts are worthwhile.

  1. Take advantage of your dental insurance.

Many dental insurance plans cover biannual preventative appointments.  Take advantage of these and avoid costly procedures in the future.

Teaching Your Child To Floss

Let’s face it – as adults, we generally don’t floss, despite the constant nagging from our dentists and the guilt-ridden, embarrassed responses we’re forced to give twice a year when the hygienist asks us how often we floss.  And if we don’t floss, how can we possibly expect our children to pick up the habit?

We know, we know. It’s just another thing to add to your never-ending to-do list.  Getting kids to brush their teeth is hard enough; let alone asking them to add another 2 minutes onto their bedtime routine.

According to dentists, flossing is even MORE important than brushing when it comes to preventing periodontal disease and tooth decay.  Brushing covers the surface of the tooth, but your tongue and saliva help to reduce plaque in those areas as well.  Between your teeth is a whole other story.  Food particles (yes, even if you can’t see them) get stuck between your teeth, attracting cavity-causing bacteria.  If you aren’t flossing, you’re missing out on cleaning up to 40% of your tooth.

As soon as your child has two teeth that are touching, it’s time to start the flossing routine.  As with brushing, they’ll require supervision until they’re about 7 or 8 years old.  To make it more enjoyable, let your child pick their favorite flavored floss.  To make it easier, let your child use a pre-threaded flosser of floss holder to maneuver around all of their teeth.


Step One. To begin flossing, have your child cut off a piece of floss approximately 18 inches long.

Step Two. Have them wrap the ends around their middle or index fingers on both hands.

Step Three. Next, have them gently guide the floss between their teeth, carefully moving the floss around the tooth and under the gum line. Make sure they floss between the gum line and the side of each tooth.

When Should You Make Your Child’s First Dentist Appointment?

The first trip to the dentist comes a lot sooner than you might think.  Doesn’t it feel like baby just popped out and now he already has appointments?!  The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) recommends that children visit the dentist by age 1 or within 6 months of the first tooth erupting at the very latest.

Unfortunately, most kids in the US don’t see the dentist until well over 2.5 years old, according to a study conducted by Delta Dental Plans Association.  Furthermore, 34% of kids under the age of 11 haven’t EVER been to a dentist.

To some parents, a baby’s little gnashers just don’t seem important.  After all, they’ll just fall out eventually.  But in the meantime, baby teeth help children learn to chew properly, speak well, and save space for permanent teeth.

Motivating Kids to Care for Their Teeth

We can teach children how to brush their teeth, but convincing them to do it is another story.  We talk to people all of the time who are just tired and worn out from battling their kids about brushing their teeth.  To help you out, here are 5 practical tips for winning the war:

Monkey see, monkey do.

Lead by example.  Kids are always copying what their parents do.  Show your kids consistency in your own oral health habits and they’ll follow suit.  Even more, show them that you are proud of your smile and take pride in keeping it healthy and they’ll do the same.

Let them pick their poison.

Make a special trip to the store for your little one to select their very own toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, and mouthwash.  Put extra emphasis on it being completely theirs.  They’ll enjoy the fact that they have something that no one else can use.

Put a little fun into it.

Make up a song or game  to go along with their brushing and flossing routine.  By infusing energy, laughter, and play into the process, they’ll learn to associate brushing with a fun time.

Teach them why.

Instead of only teaching children how to brush, teach them why they should brush.  Put it in children’s terms and tell them that they have to brush away the “sugar bugs” before they attack their teeth and make them dirty. There’s even plaque-revealing mouthwash to show them exactly where the “sugar bugs” are.

Role reversal.

They say you’re an expert in a subject once you can teach it.  Let your child teach YOU how to brush, or have them pretend with their stuffed animal.  If they can teach it well, then they’ve learned it well.