Mouth grinding is a habit that occurs during deep sleep, meaning many may be unaware that they even do it. Usually it takes a spouse or a loved one of someone that grinds their teeth to be able to notice it in the night. Also known as bruxism, this is a condition that can go unnoticed for long periods of time and is more common in children than adults.
Symptoms may include but are not limited to: tooth pain, jaw soreness or clicking, molars appearing to be worn flat, enamel wear, and headaches.
Chances are a dentist will be able to perform an examination to tell whether grinding is occurring. It is reported that over 10% of adults and 15% of children grind their teeth; yet it was not until recent years that doctors have actually discovered why.
It used to be a common misconception to link bruxism to stress or anger in the same context as we feel it during the day. Naturally, it can be a natural human response to consciously clench our teeth when we are mad or feeling intensely about something; and while this can happen while we sleep, it is found to actually be more than likely linked to what is called “obstructive sleep apnea”: a disorder that cuts off breathing for anywhere from 10-30 seconds during sleep.
How it Happens
While we sleep, we drift in and out of REM and NREM cycles. These stand for “Rapid Eye Movement” and “Non Rapid Eye Movement” which represent the depth of the levels of which the mind and body rest. As our sleep and rest deepens, all of our muscles relax completely. This includes the neck, jaw, mouth, and tongue. Now, when all of these muscles are completely slack it can actually block the opening of the trachea, closing off our airways!
To counteract this, the body is brilliantly designed to begin grinding. Why? Clenching the jaw is our body’s natural response because it tenses up muscles just enough to clear whatever is preventing air from freely passing through. When the muscles tighten, it reopens the airway!
The sudden obstruction, grinding, and then release unfortunately pulls us out of that deep sleep cycle and into the first stage of NREM (the lightest sleep), disrupting the cycle without the person perhaps even realizing it.
Despite the negativity surrounding bruxism, it is true that is could very well be preventing this form of sleep apnea and allowing air to pass through to the lungs even in the deepest sleep.
Mouth guards might seem like the best solution but in truth can actually make breathing more difficult. It would treat the symptom (teeth grinding) but it would not solve the initial problem.
Sleep apnea is often found to be more prominent in:
- People with anxiety and depression
- Children with ADHD and other learning disabilities
- Children and adults who did not breastfeed as infants for very long or at all
If your teeth grinding is becoming more of an issue, talk to your doctor about sleep apnea. When REM occurs, it is in the stages of the night where our skin and brain cells are replenished, our HGH (human growth hormone) is released, it boosts memory, and helps us burn fat. Sleep apnea disrupts this cycle which can lead to weight gain, heart disease and stroke. Children with sleep apnea were reported to struggle with hyperactivity, lack of focus, issues communicating, trouble adjusting to new environments, and in general received lower grades. Remember, just because you are getting an 8-10 hour rest does not always mean that this it is a wholesome, uninterrupted sleep. The good news is that most children outgrow their sleep apnea as well as their grinding, leaving little to no lasting damage on their teeth.
In a recent study, patients were given a CPAP machine (a treatment often used in severe cases of sleep apnea) or an oral device used to adjust placement in the mouth to make breathing easier. Not only did their sleep apnea stop, but so did the bruxism. Check for signs of your children grinding their teeth – chances are if it is a regular occurrence, they are not getting the sleep they need.
While grinding our teeth could be saving your life every night, it can have a long-term effect on one’s overall health. If you are concerned your child may have obstructive sleep apnea, or you yourself have it and you are concerned about your long-term health, talk to your doctor or pediatrician about steps you can take towards treatment. If the grinding persists and there is a legitimate concern about worn-down enamel, talk to your dentist about a safe mouth guard he or she would recommend.
We have all been in this situation: we are deep in a discussion with a friend, family member, co-worker, etc, and a ghastly smell wafts from their mouth. Once the smell is detected, it is hard to continue the conversation! Bad breath plagues on average 65% of Americans. For the individual in question it can be a truly embarrassing condition, and even create a fear of speaking aloud if there are no breath mints or chewing gum on hand.
In general, all bad breath is caused by an accumulation of bacteria in the mouth that is not properly removed. To contrast this idea, a similar bodily process can be found in sweat. Sweating is our body’s way of cooling us off and releasing toxins. However, when sweat is not washed off properly by bathing, it can begin to smell, and become what is known as “B.O.” or “body odor”. Inside our mouths, salivating has a similar purpose. Saliva glands in our mouths are used to wash away bacteria and continually replenish the mouth. Yet when proper oral hygiene is neglected, bacteria can flourish and the mouth can produce a nasty odor.
The Three Types of Bad Breath
1. Eating Those Potent Foods
The most obvious type of bad breath is the type that is completely situational, and that is whenever we eat something with a strong taste. Foods like garlic, onions, coffee, and certain spice-laden meals can seemingly cling to every inch of our mouths after eating them.
Luckily, a quick rinse with mouthwash or a teeth brushing can eliminate these odors fairly quickly after the fact.
2. Morning Breath
Nearly everyone has it, especially if you can be hasty in your nightly dental routine or forget to brush entirely. One of the best ways to prevent morning breath is to scrape your tongue before bed. Most bacteria that breeds overnight when the mouth is closed for up to 8 hours, and overall oral bacteria in general, can be found on the tongue. Another tip is to swish coconut oil before bed. It sounds strange, but this is actually an ancient practice known as oil pulling.
For about 15-20 minutes, swish around a tablespoon of organic pressed coconut oil and do not swallow it! It is said to “catch” bacteria and toxins in a disposable trap more effectively than an alcohol based mouthwash. For real life testimonies and the exact science, research oil pulling online. You will be astounded!
Lastly, the peskiest form of bad breath is known as Halitosis; a chronic condition that is persistent despite brushing and flossing. The cause can be trickier to locate, as there are many possibilities. If you are brushing and flossing consistently and it is not making a difference, chances are it is a problem you may have to consult a dentist about. Chronic bad breath can usually be traced back to two very broad categories: poor dental hygiene (at some point in your life), poor diet – and sometimes, both. When your daily oral regimen (brushing flossing, and rinsing) is not totally thorough on a regular basis (like remembering to brush, yet never flossing), it can lead to all kinds of dysfunction in the mouth that needs to be treated by a dentist: gum disease, cavity, tooth decay – all of which can be prevented. Diets high in sugar and carbohydrates, sugary and carbonated drinks, as well as habitual tobacco use can be the cause of most oral ailments especially when made a practice. In fact, most people that use tobacco products daily have bad breath, and if they do not have oral health issues now, chances are they will later in life! Remember to moderate your alcohol, soda, and tobacco use to only special occasions.
A healthy diet and lifestyle benefits your whole body, which includes your mouth. If you believe you may have halitosis, consult your dentist and they will be able to locate certain stages of decay or gum disease. They can also give you tips to improve your habits and specific diet changes you can make.
Overall, remember to visit your dentist twice a year, and to brush twice daily – because breath mints won’t always cut it!
By the ages 10-13 years old, most of a child’s baby teeth have fallen out. When the new ones grow in, they may not be ideally spaced or aligned. Whether they be for practical or cosmetic reasons, many adolescents and their parents choose to invest in braces for a child’s future smile. The need can be genetic, caused by inheriting bite or spacing problems. Sometimes it can be due to prolonged thumb sucking habits, poor nutrition, or decay. Depending on the severity of the need, your dentist may be able to recognize the early signs of a need for braces, the most common being:
- Irregular loss of baby teeth
- Chewing or biting difficulties
- Teeth that meet abnormally or not at all
From this point, the matter is out of the dentist’s hands and he or she may recommend your child see an orthodontist. If these signs are ignored, they can very likely cause problems later on. These could include crowded teeth, an over or underbite, and even jaw problems. The “best age” is different for every child, but it usually falls somewhere between ages 8-14. Sometimes a parent or child may choose to schedule an orthodontist appointment if they notice crookedness that may not necessarily be causing dysfunction in the mouth but they choose to correct the problem for cosmetic reasons. If this is the case, the orthodontist will be able to determine when it is best to begin the treatment, and whether or not it can wait if it is a minor correction. In some situations, teeth can shift over time as the mouth grows to a place where the problem is not as visible.
The 4 Types of Braces
Metal or Traditional Braces
These are the most commonly seen braces in teenagers and even adults. Over the years, different designs have been developed to reduce the amount of metal used, making it less bulky, less noticeable, and more comfortable sitting inside the mouth. While they still remain the most noticeable type of braces, they are the cheapest.
Designed very similarly to metal braces, but they have clear or tooth-colored brackets and even wires used to blend into the mouth. Despite this convenience, they can stain easily if not properly cared for and are more expensive than traditional braces.
Lingual braces are metal braces but in reverse. They attach to the teeth from the inside rather than the outside. While not directly visible, they can be uncomfortable and very difficult to clean. They do not function well for more severe cases of misalignment but are used for more cosmetic fixes. They are also more expensive.
Clear plastic similar to a mouth guard, but for alignment purposes. They are replaced every two weeks for gradual but smooth transitions. Again, Invisalign is not recommended for severe cases. They are nearly invisible and do not restrict any food or drink. Available to teens and adults only, they remain the most expensive braces option, as well as the longest in duration.
For whatever reason you decide to invest in a beautiful smile, do NOT ever purchase “Do It Yourself” braces online and attempt to use them! These can do lasting damage and can even cause the extraction of permanent teeth which cannot be replaced! You are much better off going to a licensed orthodontist. Most are flexible and offer convenient payment plans so that a straight and happy smile is not out of reach.
Mouthwash can be one of the most refreshing steps of a daily routine. It removes excess bacteria, strengthens enamel, whitens teeth, and provides instant fresh breath. Mouthwash is the step in a dental oral hygiene regimen that can provide extra protection beyond brushing and flossing. At the Kidd’s Place, we specialize in being able to recognize the different needs presented with kids’ teeth. Here are some things you need to know about your kids using mouthwash.
Fluoride is a mineral commonly used to strengthen teeth and to prevent cavities from forming. It is primarily found in toothpaste, mouthwash, and even most water systems in the U.S.! However, it is not recommended that a child uses fluoride toothpaste regularly until after age 2 (except for a small smear on their toothbrush), and mouthwash until after age 6. This is due to the risk of fluorosis.
Fluorosis is something that can happen in the process of children’s teeth developing. It occurs when there is an overexposure to fluoride. It can cause the outer texture of the tooth to become bumpy, or white or brown spots to appear on the teeth. While fluorosis only causes issues in appearance and can be easily prevented, it can be difficult to remove.
Knowing When the Time is Right
Despite mouthwash not being recommended until age 6, every child is different. That being said, age 6 is just about the time adult teeth are starting to come in and certain baby teeth are beginning to loosen. When introducing a child to mouthwash for the first time, it is most important that they have the self-control and awareness to not swallow it automatically as they would a beverage.
To know whether a child is ready to use mouthwash without swallowing, there is a simple test: using a cup of water by the sink, ask the child to swish it around in their mouth and to spit it out. If they are able to do this without swallowing, then they will most likely be able to do it with mouthwash. Make sure it is used after brushing and flossing. It is not recommended to allow children ages 6-12 use mouthwash unattended.
For additional practice, try supervising your child in the form of a game. Use a mouthwash recommended for children that does not have that strong or harsh taste. With a stopwatch in hand, say “Go!” and time your child for exactly a minute as they swish and rinse. Feel free to cheer them on and have fun with it. When it reaches a minute yell “Stop!” and have them spit. This is excellent practice that engages parents and kids and allows them to adjust to the sensation of swishing.
Mouthwash & Braces
For young teens, braces can be immensely time-consuming when cleaning. Mouthwash is an excellent tool because it can reach places that plaque can build up that is perhaps difficult to reach with floss or a toothbrush alone. It can also loosen very small bits of food that can get lodged in the braces. This does not mean flossing or brushing should ever be neglected; mouthwash is meant as an additional cleaning agent and should not be used exclusively on its own for cleaning, especially since braces present such an opportunity for bacteria and plaque to flourish.
The Long-Term Benefits of Mouthwash
For adults and kids alike, mouthwash is designed to boost the effects of brushing twice daily, and flossing once daily. Talk to your child’s dentist whether a fluoride mouthwash is something that should be introduced to his or her oral hygiene regimen. Most dentists will even have a specific brand or type they would recommend. Instilling these habits early on can ensure a lifelong healthy smile!
Do you long for beautiful, pearly white teeth? Personal habits such as coffee drinking or tobacco use can cause discoloration over time. It’s no wonder that teeth whitening agents have become so popular. This can be a procedure performed by a professional, or as simple as using whitening strips at home. However, have you ever experienced pain while using them?
Most of us have probably heard some not-so-great, or downright scary stories about teeth whitening! However, despite popular misconception, most whitening products have not been deemed officially dangerous by professionals. Regardless, people with sensitive teeth should use caution. It has been reported that the chemicals in teeth whitening products can be harmful if left on for too long. This is because agents such as chlorine dioxide can wear down tooth enamel in the process of removing stains. This causes the nerve to be more exposed; which leads to heightened sensitivity and ultimately pain. While enamel can be reinforced with calcium agents in our diet and certain enamel toothpastes, a tooth remains the only part of the body that cannot fully repair itself.
This may go without saying, but teeth whitening agents are never recommended for little ones and kids who still have baby teeth (12 and under). As adult teeth tend to discolor over the decades, baby teeth should have no problem sparkling as long as they are taken care of! If you have found that your child’s chompers are looking a bit off-color, chances are they are not disciplined in taking care of their teeth by brushing twice and flossing daily. Permanent correction such as whitening should only be conducted with permanent teeth.
Chemical-Free Ways to Whiten Teeth
- The dentist: sometimes all you need is a good deep-clean! Your twice yearly dental visit can clear off build-up of plaque in certain areas and polish teeth in ways department store toothpaste cannot. After your dentist visits, really make sure to be strict about flossing and rinsing daily and see if you notice a difference long-term. For an even stronger effect using this process, purchase whitening mouthwash, used to brighten teeth (not recommended for children!)
- Oil-pulling: an ancient practice, beneficial in countless ways; one of them being teeth whitening! Using organic coconut oil, swish a tablespoon in your mouth for 20 minutes a day. This is a chemical-free way for layers of plaque to be broken down as oils have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. It also acts as a trap to pull and collect bacteria. (Don’t have 20 minutes? Try it while in the shower or answering emails. It goes by very quickly!)
- Sugar-free gum with xylitol: chewing gum increases saliva production which cleanses your teeth of bacteria. As we clench down, it can also get those hard-to-reach places, a bit like flossing does.
- An apple a day: a cliche that is nevertheless true! Apples can be beneficial to our teeth as well, because their flesh fibers can act as little toothbrushes in our mouths, washing away plaque and brightening teeth. Research also shows that celery has a similar effect.
One last note:
If you have sensitive teeth and are hesitant about using a whitening product, and have attempted these home remedies to no avail, discuss options with your dentist. There may be a particular product he or she would recommend that would be best for your teeth and your level of staining. Dentists know best!
As much as we love our patients at the Kidds Place, visiting the dentist for a filling can be uncomfortable! Luckily there are more specific ways to keep your teeth healthy and clean besides the obvious. We have all heard it before: brush twice daily, floss, go to the dentist, and do not eat too much sugar. It sounds simple, but does it truly guarantee a filling-free mouth? Every mouth is different, and even the best brushers can still experience decay. But there’s more steps you can take towards cavity prevention for a lifelong healthy smile.
How Does a Cavity Even Form?
Cavities are formed when plaque buildup weakens the tooth enamel, causing it to soften. Plaque is a sticky substance that forms on teeth when sugar from food has been solidified over a period of time by the bacteria in our mouths. Enamel is a natural hard coating of the tooth made up of minerals such as calcium. If the plaque sticking to the surface of the enamel is not brushed away, it begins to eat away at it. When this occurs, acids begin to penetrate and diminish the tooth itself, causing the dark or black spot where decay has occurred. This is called a cavity because it is a literal chasm that has formed in the tooth itself. It is recommended that children as well as adults receive a teeth cleaning twice yearly. These remove plaque build-up and keep teeth polished and smooth. However, here are some measures you and your family can take outside of the dentist chair.
Foods to Avoid & Foods to Eat
What is the common phrase? “Don’t eat too much sugar, or your teeth will rot!” While it’s true that excess sugar can harm your teeth, there is little point trying to scare kids out of eating sugar so they wont have to “go to the dentist and get a shot”, because while sugar can cause plaque, so can anything high in carbohydrates. This is because all carbs are eventually broken down into simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose. The solution is simply ensuring that plaque formed from these types of food is properly removed, so no permanent damage can be done to teeth.
While we are all taught to moderate certain foods, did you know there are foods that actually help strengthen your enamel? Any foods rich in calcium – milk, cheese, yogurt, can make the enamel stronger and therefore develop a thicker shield against cavities.
Eat apples! It is said that they can actually clean your teeth. The fleshy fibers found in the white of the apple can act as tiny little “toothbrushes” that scrub at your teeth as you chew. It goes to show that “an apple a day” can keep the dentist away too! (Although, don’t skip out on your twice yearly cleaning). If your kids like celery, it too is known to have a similar effect!
Drink lots of water. Most water systems in the U.S. contain fluoride – one of the minerals commonly used to strengthen teeth. What is more, drinking water ultimately produces more saliva, which can wash away bacteria in the mouth between brushing.
Dentists recommend brushing for two minutes, twice daily – once in the morning and once at night. If your child likes to be speedy and brushes too quickly, practice setting a timer for 2 minutes to ensure they reach every area of their mouth. Remember also that if kids cannot yet tie their shoes, studies show that they have not yet developed the coordination or strength to brush their teeth on their own.
Flossing and rinsing with mouthwash every day can seem like a lot, but try to develop the habit of flossing with the morning brushing, and rinsing with the evening brushing. Floss can reach the pesky plaque that a toothbrush can not – in fact, did you know brushing only cleans two-thirds of our teeth? Floss gets between and cleans the one-third a toothbrush cannot. Imagine if you went your whole life without flossing! There would always be a third of your teeth that never got cleaned. To round it off, mouthwash kills excess bacteria all over the mouth, not just teeth, but gums, tongue, cheeks and roof of mouth where germs can also spread. Using all three can help your kids to be cavity free!
Generally speaking, little ones love their binkies. They satisfy the “suck reflex” babies often have associated with bottles and breastfeeding. This provides a calming and soothing effect, which is helpful at night and at naptimes especially if a baby is fussy or fighting sleep.
It is not a surprise therefore that parents are advocates for soothers as well. Pacifiers often provide some peace and quiet and can help a baby get to sleep while being rocked or held. What’s more, although no exact reason has been proven, there has been a direct correlation in many studies conducted between pacifier use and lower rates of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
Dental Health & Pacifiers
There are pros and cons to pacifier use, and every child and parent is different. There is no set age or set time recommended by experts, as many of them differ in opinion.
As long as an infant is able to break his or her binky habit by the time multiple teeth begin to grow in, there shouldn’t be any reason the pacifier should affect their long-term dental health. This is especially true if a child is reduced to only using it at night or naptimes.
Pacifiers can help with teething and soothing the gums but they should never be dipped in juice as this can cause cavities on baby teeth. Some babies do not need a binky as much as others. If a baby is able to be soothed without one it is best to not force the habit upon a child before attempting soothing in other ways – rocking, feeding, etc.
Unfortunately, many toddlers get into such a habit of using the pacifier that not only will they not stop asking for it, but after a parent finally takes it away, they can develop the habit to suck their thumb. Prolonged habits of thumb-sucking can eventually cause misalignment as teeth are growing in. If the thumb-sucking continues, it could call for the need for braces later on.
#1 Take it Away Early
Reportedly, some parents have taken a pacifier away as young as 3 months old, suggesting that it is much easier to stop the habit of a newborn than a toddler. Other parents recommend simply limiting it at around 3-6 months old, strictly to bedtime and naptime. Of course many would make exceptions to this – long car rides or airplane trips – but it is believed by many that the younger, the better. Weaning the pacifier does not always work for older children and can cause confusion and arguing.
#2 Make It Defective
One of the ways to stop a child from wanting their pacifier is to “break” it. It is never recommended to cut the tip of a binky with a scissors, as small pieces off it can break off and pose a choking hazard. However, by simply taking a thumbtack or needle and poking a small hole at the tip, air will freely pass through. This will cause the child to think it is broken as it will no longer satisfy the sucking reflex.
#3 Use them to “Buy” Something Else
If there is something your child desperately wants, be it a new toy or a pet goldfish, explain to them that it can only be purchased by the Binky Bank. Help them gather up all the pacifiers in your home and put them in a container to be offered in exchange for the item. As they physically donate to the Binky Bank they will be reminded that there are no more pacifiers in the house and they will better understand prioritizing by giving up something they want for something they want more.
#4 Set a Time & Stick to It
Whatever you as a parent personally decide is the right time for you and your child, schedule a date that they will no longer use the pacifier. You could use a memorable day that could indicate a milestone for your child – for example, their 3rd birthday, followed by a statement such as “big girls/big boys don’t need binkies!” Up until that time remind them of the day they will no longer be able to use their pacifier. This will give them time to accept it and process through it, as giving up the habit cold turkey can be very difficult for some children. Once you have made a decision, do not change your mind! There may be a few times after this day that they will ask for their binky again, but remind them of the time they became a big kid and stand your ground.
#5 Give it Away
Similar to the Binky Bank, but instead with a giving mentality. If your child is old enough to understand the concept, explain to your child that there are children younger than them who need their pacifiers, and that they are too old to keep theirs. As you encourage them to press toward the decision of giving them away it may be helpful if there is a younger cousin or neighbor toddler to use as an example. Round up all the pacifiers in your home with your toddler and leave them for the “Binky Fairy” at night who hands them out to new babies being born. If it is around the holiday season, make the suggestion of leaving them for Santa Claus.
Is your baby teething? Pediatricians have stated that infants typically feel their very first tooth emerge anywhere between 4-8 months, the average being around 7 months. There are many symptoms for teething, but luckily can be easily remedied!
While some symptoms of teething are very common, such as slight temperature, crankiness, biting, loss of appetite, and drooling, some babies can even develope a facial rash, begin to nightwalk (as teething can cause restlessness), rub their ears, and appear to have bruising under the gums. According to the magazine What To Expect, these are nothing to be worried about, and can be a sure sign that a little one is going to get their first tooth soon.
How to Soothe Your Infant During Teething
Teething rings, gum rubbing, or any kind of chewing is called counter-pressure, and can help gently break down gums so the tooth can break through. As a parent, it is encouraged to massage the place on your baby where the teeth are coming in and to use foods like popsicles or frozen fruits during this time – not only does it help the child to chew more, but the cold temperature can relieve those areas of sensitivity.
Infant Tylenol or Acetaminophen can be effective when extreme discomfort occurs, but do not use before consulting your pediatrician.
Whatever the old wives’ tales say, do NOT dip your child’s pacifier in whiskey! Even the smallest amount can sedate the baby which can be very dangerous.
How to Care for Baby Teeth
Infant teeth may be temporary, but they can still decay and rot like adult teeth can! Between the ages of 1-3 years old a child will grow 20 teeth. After that, most children won’t lose their baby teeth for quite a few years, which means they need to be cared for to last. Once an infant’s first teeth have emerged, begin gently brushing and flossing their teeth at least once a day until they are old enough to brush on their own. This will help condition them to establish good dental hygiene habits – a daily practice that will last a lifetime. Dentists recommend using tap water with infants as it contains fluoride. It is not recommended to use fluoride toothpaste until age 2 because too much of it can lead to brown and white spots appearing on teeth.
Make sure your child does not fall asleep with a bottle or sippy cup full of juice or milk as it can also be damaging if it sits in their mouth for hours at a time (plaque buildup which can lead to cavities).
Be sure take your child to their first dental exam by age 1 (we recommend the Kidd’s Place!) Twice yearly teeth cleanings are highly recommended by all dentists for children and adults alike.
There are two types of toothbrushes on the market today – manual and electric. While there are benefits to both, the brushes themselves can wear out and accumulate bacteria. Manual brushing enables full control from the amount of pressure and movements applied to teeth, which perhaps an electric toothbrush cannot allow because of its rapid and mechanical vibrations. The benefits of electric toothbrushes are quite obvious; when in use, the bristles are able to do more than a regular toothbrush, such as massaging gums and pulsating in between the tight cracks between our teeth, giving us that “straight-from-the-dentist” clean feeling.
Whether you prefer this modern way of dental hygiene or a more traditional, inexpensive method, our teeth still take their toll on these devices and wear them out. What’s more, some researchers show that 10 million germs can be living in our toothbrush! A toothbrush can become a breeding grounds for harmful bacteria if it is not properly stored.
For best results, most experts say to replace your toothbrush every three months (if you use an electric, that means replacing the “head”, or the attachment of the toothbrush). Children may need to replace theirs more frequently because they tend to apply more pressure when brushing. Kids may grow attached to their toothbrush (especially if it has their favorite Disney character on it!) but once the bristles start to bend outwards, dentists say the toothbrush is no longer effective, and should be thrown away.
Care of Your Toothbrush & Good Habits to Form
Because the bristles of our toothbrush wear out so quickly, the American Dental Association recommends rinsing your toothbrush under the faucet between brushings to wash away saliva and toothpaste residue, and to store it upright so the bristles can air dry. If you’re a parent that is extra cautious of bacteria, soak it in rubbing alcohol when not in use, then rinse with water thoroughly.
It can be a difficult task to keep track of how long it has been since each toothbrush in the house has been replaced, especially if you have more than one kid! But remember that your child will receive a new brush with each dentist visit, and these visits occur (at the very least) every 6 months for cleaning. That means you only have to replace it once again, somewhere along the midpoint, between each visit.
*Tip: Instead of remembering to put them on the shopping list every so often, keep your bathroom cupboard or closet stocked with unopened toothbrushes. (Many stores have value packs you can purchase which contain several in a pack). This will make the transitions more convenient for you and your family.
Have you ever stocked up on household and personal care items during a great sale? At some point, we all have probably done this to save a few dollars on commonly used items such as shampoo, bar soap, paper towels, toothpaste and other necessities. When it comes to oral hygiene products though, have you ever wondered about how long they might keep while awaiting use?
Does Toothpaste Expire?
In short, toothpaste and mouthwashes do indeed have a shelf life and expiration dates, especially if you are using a fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash containing fluoride. To the surprise of many, The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) classifies toothpaste in the same category as cosmetics, which is required to include a list of actives as you can see on the back of a box or the tube of toothpaste. Under these regulations, they are also required to list an expiration date, usually found along the crimped edge of the tube and also on the box. Toothpastes also carrying the seal of approval by the ADA (American Dental Association) are required to list expiration dates.
Expiration of toothpaste comes about 2 years after manufacture date, which might also be found on the box or tube of toothpaste in the form of a number sequence. Manufactures of food and product often use a 3-digit number from 001-365 which represents the day of the year, usually preceded by the last digit of the year. For example: a product made on March 1, 2015 would be coded 3015, for example). If your toothpaste contains a number sequence rather than a clear date, you can often decipher the numbers similarly to determine when the product was made.
Beyond the listed expiration date, there can be loss of effectiveness and stability in the active ingredients, such as fluoride. Active ingredients as well as flavor can also crystallize and separate causing not only an inconsistent product, but like one that doesn’t taste or feel too pleasant. Most brands have a shelf life of at least two years, so if it’s a toothpaste you and your family use regularly, go ahead and stock up on a few tubes, just take note of the expiration dates, especially if you use a recommended fluoride toothpaste.
Is it dangerous to use expired toothpaste?
While it isn’t advised, using an expired toothpaste or mouthwash will not harm you given the expiration is within reasonable time. We wouldn’t suggest using a couple years post expiration! The toothpaste or wash just might not taste or feel as smooth or consistent as it would if it was within the shelf life span. The concern is really in the effectiveness of the active ingredients such as fluoride and triclosan. So go ahead and get an extra tube or two next time your favorite toothpaste or mouthwash is on sale. Chances are that with regular use, those extras will be gone long before expiration. As always, happy brushing (and flossing)!