Dentist approved Easter activities

We have written at length about the importance of good oral hygiene and a healthful diet low in sugar to help keep cavities at bay. You can read about high sugar cavity culprits and how to fight them here.

Instead of lamenting on the dangers of sticky sugar laden Easter candy, we have compiled some sweet (dentist-approved) suggestions on what you can offer your little ones that won’t risk tooth decay!

With the Easter bunny hopping into your neighbourhood at the end of the month, consider replacing your typical candy treats with some of the following:

Hunt for Easter coupons

Type or write these out of colourful paper, cut them into strips or circles, and place them in those hollow plastic eggs. Weather depending, you can hide these outdoors or in, and have a hunt:

  • One rocking dance party to [insert favourite musician here]
  • One trip to the Science centre/Aquarium/Zoo
  • One extra episode of [insert favourite TV show here]
  • One cookie baking afternoon
  • One epic fort building evening complete with all of the blankets, pillows, and fairy lights
  • One bracelet making session
  • One movie date with parent, grandparent, guardian, sibling, relative, or friend
  • One extra late sleep in allowed (or extra early wake up, age dependent)

Set up a craft station

We love this easy and cute bunny nose craft by Kids Craft Room.

Teachable moment: Did you know that unlike our teeth, rabbits’ two front teeth (incisors) never stop growing! Bunnies need to chew on rough, fibrous foods like hay and vegetables to grind their teeth down to a healthy length.

Dye your own Easter eggs – naturally!

We love the deep rich tones that Magnesium Blue was able to create with cabbage leaves, grape juice, and turmeric (pictured at top).

This science experiment doubles as an easy opportunity to remind our little ones that what we eat has a direct effect on the appearance of our teeth. By soaking the pearly white eggs overnight, they absorb colour of the food that coats them – much like going to bed without brushing our teeth!

And when you and your kids do inevitably indulge in some sweet treats this Easter, take the opportunity to make sure you have your regular preventative cleaning appointments for the season booked.

Fluoride: the good, the bad, and the spotty (Part 2 of 2)

Last week we posted the introduction of this two-part post on the effect of fluoride on our teeth.


  • Fluoride is a mineral that is naturally occurring in the Earth’s crust
  • A healthy amount of fluoride helps strengthen teeth and protects them against cavities
  • Fluoride is found in the majority of toothpaste brands, and is added to many municipal water sources, including Toronto’s water
  • Most common water filtration devices do not remove fluoride

While fluoride is helpful in strengthening the enamel that protects the teeth, it is possible to consume too much fluoride.

The primary complication of an extreme amount of fluoride ingestion is called fluorosis, which is observed as spots on the teeth. Fluorosis can affect primary (baby) teeth as well as adult teeth. Initially, this mottling of the teeth appears as white spots. The white spots signify areas in the enamel that are subject to decay. With time, white spots begin to turn brown, and are at risk of turning into cavities. The degree to which these spots appear is related to the degree of fluorosis.

In addition to the cosmetic issues of fluorosis, it is important to visit a dentist who will also address the risk for tooth decay. A consultation with your dentist will help you determine which of the following options is best for you:

Take note of some common culprits that can lead to over ingestion of fluoride:

  • Swallowing toothpaste
    • Parents should monitor children when they are brushing to ensure they spit out toothpaste
    • Parents should only use a rice grain sized amount of toothpaste when brushing infants teeth
  • Eating foods with high concentration of fluoride (like grapes and raisins) and failing to brush afterwards
  • Drinking a copious amount of dark leaf teas, as some tea plants absorb a great deal of natural fluoride from the earth
  • Use of topical fluoride treatments administered without a dentist
  • Use of fluoride tablets when not doctor or dentist recommended

And of course, it is never to late to adopt preventative lifestyle changes. Good oral hygiene and frequent visits to the dentist are essential.

Fluoride: the good, the bad, and the spotty (Part 1 of 2)

In this blog post, we discover what fluoride is, how much is found in Toronto tap water, and how to know if we are getting enough. Next week, we will explore the negative effects of too much fluoride consumption and how your dentist can help.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral that is widely distributed in nature, and occurs naturally throughout the earth’s crust. A healthy amount of fluoride consumption reduces tooth sensitivity, helps prevent tooth decay, and can even help your teeth rebuild areas of decay.

In North America, where the water sources do not have naturally high traces of fluoride, many municipalities add fluoride to the tap water to help prevent tooth decay. Based on recommendations of the Canadian Dental Association, and supported by Toronto Public Health, Toronto’s water is fluoridated (and has been since 1963). Fluoride levels in Toronto vary between 0.5 and 0.6 milligrams per litre (or ppm). For reference, in 2015 The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) set the optimal level of fluoride for preventing tooth decay at 0.7 ppm. Before 2015, this was 0.7 to 1.2 ppm.

How does it work?

Fluoride helps to prevent cavities in growing children and in adults.

  • In children, the fluoride that is consumed concentrates in their growing bones (which includes developing baby and adult teeth), which hardens the enamel even before these teeth emerge
  • Fluoride also helps to harden existing enamel on adult teeth, well after they have emerged through two processes:
  1. Remineralisation: when the saliva in the mouth is less acidic, it coats and strengthens the teeth by adding calcium. Fluoride makes the coating even harder than it would be naturally, creating a strong protective barrier.
  2. Demineralization: when the saliva in the mouth is acidic, it strips away the protective calcium barrier. Fluoride slows this process and makes the effect less extreme.

Am I getting enough fluoride?

  • Regular consumption of tap water from a source that has up to 0.7 ppm of fluorine (either added or naturally occurring), in addition to consuming foods that are cooked with tap water isn’t quite enough to have the desired decay-fighting effect.
  • Children and adults should also be supplementing tap water consumption with twice daily brushing with toothpaste that contains fluoride.

Curious about your water filtration device?

  • If you reach into the fridge to pour yourself cool water from an activated carbon filtration device (like a Brita filter), then you are still receiving all of the fluoride that originated from the tap.
  • Brita Faucet Filters and Pitcher Filters have been tested and verified to remove only a trace amount of fluoride over the life of a filter.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we dive into the ugly side of fluoride over-consumption.

Strategies to help ease dental anxiety

For a whopping 10 percent of the worldwide adult population, a routine check up at the dentist can bring up such extreme anxiety that they avoid going to the dentist altogether. If you find yourself feeling fairly to very anxious considering any of the following, you may also have dental anxiety:

  • the thought of going to the dentist tomorrow
  • picturing yourself in the dentist waiting room
  • imagining yourself receiving a local anaesthetic injection
    • or getting a tooth drilled
    • or receiving a scaling and polishing

The degree of anxiety that you feel regarding any of the moments above, and whether you have a previous negative dental experience that precipitates those feelings will determine if you are in the camp of dental anxiety or of a more extreme dental phobia. With the help and diagnosis from a GP, there are many strategies available to a person with a dental phobia.

For those who experience dental anxiety, we offer some suggestions of calming your nerves and making your visit to the dentist more bearable:

  1. Acknowledge that you have some anxiety in the first place. If you have missed several routine dental check ups because of a demanding schedule or inconvenience, then we urge you to take a moment to truly analyse why you’re skipping appointments. Only once you acknowledge a dental anxiety can you take the next steps to help alleviate it.
  2. Find a dentist you can trust. Ask your friends/family for recommendations. Know what is important to you. If good bedside manner is key to your comfort, then lookup reviews on rapport. If years of experience is what you trust, then prioritize age.
  3. Once you decide on a dentist, call to schedule an appointment. Disclose your feelings with the knowledge that you are certainly not the first person with dental anxiety that they treat. Ask if the team is willing to meet you/talk through your questions prior to a dental check up. This is your opportunity to vet the team, get acquainted with the space, and familiarize yourself – before your first regular appointment.
  4. When you do schedule your first visit, try to make it for early morning. That way you won’t need to stress all day before your visit. Practice calming techniques the night before and give yourself plenty of time to get some much-needed rest.
  5. Consider bringing a friend to the appointment with you. The presence of a familiar person who you trust and who can advocate on your behalf if you feel unable to do so can do wonders in easing anxiety. What are friends for? Holding your hand in the dentist chair, that’s what!
  6. Agree with your dentist on a sign for ‘stop’ – something you won’t need your oral capabilities to communicate. A simple hand wave will do. Knowing you can stop a procedure when you’re uncomfortable with a simple flick of the wrist should ease some anxiety.
  7. Take breaks during your visit as needed, but also know that you can break your dental needs up into shorter, more frequent visits. It is better to have your dental needs addressed slowly than not at all!
  8. Bring your headphones and a playlist of familiar and calming music to listen to. Sometimes droning out the whirl of the drills is enough to make it through an appointment stress free.
  9. Learn what forms of sedation are available to you and consider an oral or nitrous oxide sedation to help you relax.
  10. Take preventative precautions to ensure your visit to the dentist are as pain and problem free as possible. We offer many tips on the importance of good oral hygiene and tips to help you incorporate flossing into your daily routine here, here, and here.

The deal with sugar and kids teeth


‘But WHYYYYY’, your child asks you for the 99th time today. You’ve just explained (again) to them that the sugary treats they so desire aren’t good for their oral health. For some reason, though, they aren’t buying it when you parrot the fear-mongering tale that your parents told you about how sweets will “make your teeth rot and fall out of your head.”

Today’s children know better than to accept our half- hearted answers at face value. With the internet at our fingertips, we can help satisfy that curiosity once and for all!  Therefore, let us help you dig a little deeper into the origins of cavities. A little more knowledge should go a long way to help you explain to your questioning kids why, exactly, they should limit the consumption of sweets to mealtimes over snack times; why the lollipops they receive at the doctor’s office are likely sugar-free; and why water is really the very best hydrator between meals.

Here are the easy-to-digest facts about sugar and its role in cavity creation:

  • Germs (also called bacteria) exist in all of our mouths.
  • One tooth can be home to 500 million bacteria!
  • We can’t get rid of all germs, but we can control them with regular brushing and flossing.
  • Most of these germs live in what is called plaque, which isn’t necessarily harmful when looked at independently.
  • Plaque is the stubborn, sticky stuff that likes to live on teeth (that is what we are trying to get rid of when we brush + floss, it is also what your dentist might sometimes scrape away at).
  • Enamel is what we call the hard outer layer of the tooth.
  • Enamel is known as the “tooth “protector”, as it covers up the nerves that live deep inside the tooth.
  • During sugar consumption (via eating it and/or drinking it), a mild form of acid is created when these sugars mix with the existing bacteria in the mouth.
  • This acid is what burns through the protective tooth enamel and causes cavities (holes in our teeth).
  • Cavities are holes that burrow through the enamel – these holes leave us open to tooth sensitivity.
  • We should always aim to avoid cavities, but if they arise they should be treated by your dentist right away.
  • Sugar is not limited to the refined (white) sugar that you bake with.
  • Sugar also occurs naturally in many healthy foods (such as fruits and vegetables, called fructose), and even milk (called lactose).
  • According to the Canadian Dental Association, other sugars to look out for include “corn sweeteners; corn syrup; dextrose; fructose; glucose; honey; maple syrup; molasses and sucrose”
  • Time is of the essence! The longer something sweet stays in our mouths, the more time the newly created acid has to do damage.

Now that we understand how painful cavities happen (any sugar we put into our mouths + existing mouth germs = enamel-burrowing acid), we offer some tips on how to avoid them:

1. Limit consumption of the following Cavity Culprits:
  • Hard candy that dissolves slowly, like lollipops and Jaw Breakers.
  • Gum (not the sugar- free variety) that is chewed and chewed…and chewed.
  • Soft, sticky (and sneaky) candy that gets stuck in teeth. Think: toffee, caramels, jujubes, etc.
  • Soft, sticky (and sneaky) foods also get stuck in teeth. Dried fruit in all its varieties include high concentrations of fructose that stick to teeth just the same as candy, so think twice the next time you offer a box of raisins to a hungry child. Grapes are a much better alternative thanks to the high water content.

2. Only offer water as a drink between meals.  When we eat, there is significantly more of saliva in the mouth that helps help wash away unwanted sugars more quickly.

  • Other major Cavity Culprits are sugary drinks that are consumed between meals and overnight, as they allow sugar to linger in the mouth (these include any kind of juice, pop, and milk).
  • For this very reason, a bottle of milk or juice offered to an infant overnight is a big no-no, as the sugar pools in the mouth and covers teeth for a prolonged period of time.
  • Offer sweet drink with meals (if you must), and only offer water between meals.

3. Brush and floss regularly, especially after consuming any Cavity Culprits.

4. Visit your dentist proactively, as they have the best tools that to reduce plaque and diminish your chances of developing cavities in the first place.

New Year, New Resolutions

As we bid farewell to 2017 and prepare for a new beginning in 2018, our list of New Years resolutions continues to grow. Improving your oral health is a big item to add to the list! Big resolutions are difficult to maintain, but we have the tips to breakdown this big resolution into bite-sized details to help make it more attainable. Here are the smaller resolutions to try, as well as preparation ideas to make sure you’re ready to go come Jan 1st.

Resolution #1: Floss once per day

We’ve written a number of blog posts about flossing and why it’s important, but it never hurts to emphasize that flossing once a day is one of the best things that you can do for the health of your teeth and gums. Check out more in our post on preventing gum disease.

2017 Prep: Ensure that you’re stocked up on dental floss. Make sure that flossing will be at the top of your mind by storing the floss in a visible area by your toothbrush and toothpaste.

Resolution #2: Go for regular dentist visits

Going to the dentist regularly is crucial for oral hygiene and illness prevention. Check out an in-depth summary of the importance of regular dentist visits here.

2017 Prep: If you haven’t already scheduled your next appointment, call your dentist office to schedule one for the new year.

Resolution #3: Minimize teeth discolouration from foods and drinks

While getting regular cleanings will help combat the effects of teeth discolouration, you can get longer lasting white teeth through prevention techniques. It doesn’t have to mean completely abstaining from foods and drinks that are known to stain teeth. Check out this post for an in-depth overview of prevention and treatment ideas for teeth discolouration.

2017 Prep: Purchase straws and put them in the kitchen to be readily available for when you’ll be drinking teeth-staining liquids (including coffee, tea, or red wine). For staining foods, you can minimize discolouration by drinking water after you’ve finished eating.

Happy new year everyone, and best of luck for keeping those resolutions!

How to Make Your New Year’s Flossing Resolution Stick

We all know it’s good for us. Ideally, we would like to do it every day (twice even)! Yet, we inflate, exaggerate, and lie about how often we do it. That’s right folks – we’re talking about flossing. The all too familiar sense of dread creeps in as your dentist appointment approaches. Maybe you begin flossing a whole week before your visit, or maybe you pull out the floss you received at your previous visit The Night Before your trip to the dentist. You march your puffy, sore gums into the reclining chair and, through garbled speech, profess that you have been flossing regularly. ‘Mhmmmmm…At least a couple times a week?’.

With the gluttony that December brings, many of us will find ourselves looking forward to the fresh start that January 1st promises. Lists will be drafted, lofty health goals will be created, gym memberships purchased, and low fat Instant Pot recipes will be Pinned a-plenty. Yet, while 2018 will begin with the best of intentions, most of us will drop our New Year resolutions before the end of the month. This year, we hope you will consider adding ‘floss regularly – for real’ to your list of new year resolutions. To set your up for success we offer you our top five suggestions on making this the resolution that sticks for the whole year (or at least until your next dentist appointment).

  1. Go buy some new floss. The floss you already have clearly isn’t working for you, so spend some money on something that clicks with you – maybe you’d like to try something that promises to be silky smooth on your gums, something especially minty, or some of those pre-threaded floss sticks. Whatever your tool, you are more likely to use it if you purchase it with your own money.
  2. Place your *new* floss front and center. ‘Out of sight out of mind’, they say, so don’t tidy your floss away into that medicine cabinet.
  3. Be realistic about your expectations. If you barely make the time to brush your teeth in the morning, then don’t expect you’ll start flossing adequately then either (unless you’re prepared to get out of bed a couple minutes earlier than normal). Instead, plan to floss when it suits your schedule best, be it first thing in the morning, on a lunch break, when you walk in your door, or before you head to bed. The perfect time to floss is when you will floss, so don’t overthink it.
  4. Tell people about your flossing resolution. Tell your roommate, your partner, you family members, and/or that one friend you know who actually does floss their teeth every day – and ask them to hold you accountable.
  5. Set yourself a daily reminder. Maybe a friendly Post-it that says ‘Floss :)’ on your bathroom mirror is the gentle kind of persuasion you need, or for those that live and breathe by their smartphones, may we suggest a calendar reminder that irritates you into action.

To truly set yourself up for success, plan to make the effort to floss every single day from January 1st to January 21st. Three consecutive weeks of daily flossing will go a long way in creating your new, healthy habit. After January 21st you will find flossing has become an effortless part of your daily routine. Your gums will feel great and pain-free, your breath will be vastly improved, and you will smile brighter knowing you will end 2018 with at least one resolution fulfilled.

What your jaw could be telling you

If you feel pain in your jaw joint, temples, or ear, it could be a sign of TMD, or Temporomandibular joint disorder. This can often be treated with home remedies, but more severe cases may require surgery.

The TMJ or Temporomandibular joint is what connects the jaw to the skull. Injury to this joint causes the disorder of nerves and muscles, which is diagnosed as TMD. Your TMJ may be injured because of several possible reasons, inclding:

  • Issues with bite
  • Teeth grinding
  • Bad posture
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Excessive gum chewing
  • Enduring a heavy blow or whiplash

A more comprehensive list of symptoms include:

  • Jaw joint pain
  • Ear ache
  • Head ache
  • Pain in the temples
  • Still or sore jaw muscles
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Clicking or popping sounds from the jaw
  • Popping or ringing sounds in the ears
  • Muscle spasms in the jaw
  • Blurred vision
  • Pain at the base of the tongue

The best thing to do when you encounter these symptoms is to let your dentist know so that they can examine the source of the pain and provide a diagnosis. For less severe cases, home remedies can help to treat the symptoms. These include:

  • Putting an ice pack on the area of the joint
  • Gently massaging or stretching the jaw and neck muscles
  • Taking over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs and pain-relievers, such as Advil, aspirin, or Tylenol
  • Eating soft foods and avoiding gum
  • Taking steps to reduce and avoid stress

If home remedies are not enough to ease the symptoms, more drastic measures available to provide short term and long term relief. These include:

  • Dental splint
  • TMJ arthroscopy surgery
  • Joint replacement surgery

There are many possible causes and treatments for your jaw pain. Make sure to address symptoms with your dentist to get a diagnosis and learn what treatment options are best for you.

The problem with bites

Most people associate bite issues, or occlusions, with less attractive smiles. However, they can also cause issues such as jaw pain and premature wearing down of the teeth. Below are a list of common bite issues, the problems they cause, and corrective options. For the majority of bite issues, early detection and correction will help to make treatment easier and less costly.

In a crossbite, one or more of the upper teeth will sit on the inside of the lower teeth. As a result, people with crossbits usually have to close their mouth by moving their lower jaw forward or to the side. Crossbites can wear down the teeth prematurely, lead to incorrect chewing patterns and asymmetrical jaw development, as well as cause gum disease, bone loss, and jaw joint dysfnction (TMJ).

Depending on the number of teeth affected, treatment may include retainer, braces or palate expander.

Occurring at the front of the mouth, overbites are when upper teeth protrude excessively over the lower teeth so that the teeth are effectively not touching. Also known as a deep bite, overbites can prematurely wear down the lower teeth, cause the front teeth to function improperly, and lead to periodontal problems since the lower teeth constantly bite into the gums of the upper teeth.

Through orthodontic levelling of the front and/or back teeth, teeth will be properly realigned to come together.

Underbites occur when the front lower teeth close over the front upper teeth. This can wear down the teeth prematurely and cause jaw or joint problems that lead to jaw joint dysfunction (TMJ).

Depending on the severity of the issue, treatment may include jaw growth modification, teeth extraction, palatal expansion, or surgical jaw correction for severe cases.

In an openbite, the front upper and lower teeth do not overlap properly, causing the front teeth to literally be open when biting down. Openbites result from small habits in small children such as finger sucking and tongue thrusts, as well as uneven jaw growth. This can prematurely wear down the back teeth, cause incorrect chewing patterns, and lead to pain later on through jaw joint dysfunction (TMJ).

Openbites are the most time sensitive of all bite types since corrective action results depend heavily on early treatment. Treatments include jaw growth modification, teeth extrusion, braces, or jaw surgery. Since this type of bite directly depends on oral habits, it is important to stop actions such as finger sucking and tongue thrusts to completely correct the issue.

If you’re concerned about your or your child’s bite, please let us know so we can determine the issue and look into treatment options.

Trick or Treat! How to enjoy sugary Halloween treats without ending up with zombie teeth

Halloween: a time of dressing up, delicious treats, and fun for all ages. A glorious holiday in which sugary and acidic foods and drinks tempt us from all sides. Spookily delicious cocktails and lattes entice pedestrians from every street corner, and mounds of candies and chocolates shout their welcome as soon as the tempted shopper steps foot inside a grocery store. For anyone with a sweet tooth, this is heaven. Bulk-bought, discounted, time-limited heaven. But how to indulge without ending up with a mouth full of rotten teeth?

For one, brushing timely will help to reduce the damage. After consuming treats high in sugar but low in acidity (such as chocolate), brushing right away will help get rid of bacteria before they start attacking the enamel. However, this is not the case for foods or drinks high in acidity (such as anything in the citrus family). These types of treats will weaken the enamel as they are being consumed, and brushing right after will instead attack the enamel while it’s down. In this case, it is best to wait at least half an hour before brushing. Drinking and swishing around water instead will help to clean the mouth without hurting the enamel.

In between indulging in treats, chewing sugar-free gum will help to further protect the teeth. This increases the production of saliva in the mouth, which helps to wash out any sugar that may be coating the teeth.

As always, continue to practice the daily oral hygiene routine. If you know you won’t be in the mood to floss at the end of the night, do it in the morning and save yourself the trouble. No matter how difficult it may be to garner the self control to brush after a fun night, this will minimize the damage from all that indulgence and help keep teeth healthy and beautiful.