Most of my dentist work occurs in Apple Valley and Faribault, Minnesota and along with my wonderful staff I’m happy to share my time with patients at both locations. Every so often though, I answer a calling to extend my services far beyond the boundaries of my two practices in Minnesota. In February 2013 I traveled with St. James Church in Colorado Springs to Jinja in the Uganda, Africa region to provide services for people with no access to dental care. Those that follow Distinctive Dental on Facebook saw a preview of some of the photos I shared during my time there. Now here’s the rest of the story.
In February 2013 I boarded a plane with Larry Ihle, a great friend and owner of Dexterity Dental Lab, to fly across the world to Jinja in Uganda, Africa. Jinja is on the shores of Lake Victoria and near the headwater of the Nile River, the world’s longest, flowing 4000 miles to Egypt. There we joined the team of an outdoor dental clinic overlooking the source of the Nile.
In Enteppe, Larry and I taught the importance of dental hygiene including brushing and flossing. We even shared the techniques with our motel staff, which for many of them was the first time to be introduced to dental floss. Africa people have great warmth about them and great smiles and we want them to be able to keep those smiles long into their adult lives.
Along with prevention, we also performed many needed surgeries, correcting dental infections that could persist throughout the patients’ lifetimes. Most of the extractions were performed by local dentists, as they are fast and adaptable to the unique situations that occur in this region. I do admit to being spoiled by having oral surgeons do most of the extractions at Distinctive Dental. That being said, I did perform some extractions with Ihle as my assistant. We make a good pair!
Here I am pictured with the team at our clinic in Jinja, Uganda Africa.
Pictured in photo:
Front: Dr. Don Couchman, Dr. Charles Miller
Second: Mrs. Cathy Couchman, Sarah Mizer (college student from Colorado) and Sarah (student in Jinja)
Back: David Couchman (Don’s brother), Larry Ihle, Ben (our driver)
Part of my dental works includes a commitment to mission work in parts of the world with limited access to dental care. I know I’ll return to this part of the world again, and look forward to working with the wonderful people of Africa.
One common question I receive from parents of young children is how to care for their child’s teeth. Issues like premature decay and even future orthodontic work can be avoided by following some general guidelines and practicing good dental hygiene with your child. Both our offices in Apple Valley, MN and in Faribault, MN accept pediatric dental patients and we welcome your whole family to join us! Our staff is experienced in working with young children and we are confident in our ability to make them feel safe and comfortable in the dental chair. Let’s cover the basics of caring for a young child’s teeth.
Caring for an infant’s teeth
One thing I cannot stress enough – do not give an infant a bottle of juice or milk to drink in bed. Doing so is the main cause of Baby Bottle Mouth, which is a rapid decay of the emerging teeth throughout the mouth. Baby Bottle Mouth can result in unnecessary and uncomfortable dental work, such as crowns, in a toddler. If you do want to provide a drink in bed I recommend water only.
Before teeth emerge get in the habit of wiping the gums with a damp washcloth. This will clean the gums and help your child become accustomed to the feeling of cleaning the teeth. When teeth start to emerge offer your child a baby toothbrush and let them bite and chew on it with parental supervision. This helps them get used to the feeling of the brush on the teeth and does provide some cleaning. Use no toothpaste at this point, just dampen the brush. Follow up by wiping with the cloth. During this stage I recommend parents watch their child’s juice intake as well, as juices can cause decay. When you do offer juice, wipe gums after or offer water to rinse and clean the teeth.
Caring for a toddler’s teeth
With adult supervision, children can begin brushing once teeth emerge using a pea sized portion of toothpaste. Using more than that can cause fluorosis, a condition caused by ingesting too much fluoride which can alter the appearance of teeth. Allow your child to brush on his or her own for a minute or so, then step in and finish. Children should brush twice per day, morning and night. Night time brushing is especially important, as without a good brushing there will be decay causing materials sitting on the teeth for 8 hours or more.
Baby teeth are often spaced widely, so there may be no need to floss yet. If teeth are tightly spaced, flossing may be needed. Otherwise parents can introduce flossing every few days to develop the habit.
Allow candy in moderation. Sour candies especially can create divots in the teeth because of the acid used to flavor the candy. Check my blog on dental care and Halloween candy for advice on handling this issue. Brushing is the key to avoiding problems caused by candy and other decay causing foods.
Did you know that thumb sucking past the age of 5 or 6 can cause permanent skeletal and tooth deformities? f possible, thumb sucking should end by the time the front teeth emerge, as the habit can deform the bone structure and push out the front teeth. I advise my patients that if thumb sucking is still occurring past the age of 5 or 6 they make an appointment with an orthodontist. The orthodontist can fit their child with a special appliance that works as a deterrent. This can be very expensive, so the best advice is to avoid thumb sucking past the age of 5 or 6.
What to expect during your child’s first dental visit
I recommend that children visit the dentist for the first time around the age of 3 or 4, depending on the maturity of the child. The staff at Distinctive Dental will provide a fun and inviting environment to make your child as comfortable as possible. Your child can expect a ride in the chair to start, and if they are agreeable, a quick polish and floss. A fluoride treatment may be given if the child is ready. Prepare your child first by keeping your own fears in check. Encourage a positive experience and they will follow. Reach a book like Berenstein Bears Visit the Dentist to prepare them for this all important first visit.
Professional tooth whitening options are one of the most common questions we receive from our patients, so I thought it would be helpful to go over the most popular options with pros and cons for each. Here they are, in no particular order.
One popular option for tooth whitening are Lumineers, which are Cerinate porcelain veneers applied directly to the teeth. The process takes about three weeks and does not require any grinding or shaving of the tooth structure for application. You can read about the entire process of applying Lumineers here. They are easy and painless and give you a perfect, white smile. Lumineers are much faster than orthodontic work, and the application process saves the original tooth structure and is reversible if needed. No anesthetic is used during the seating of Lumineers, as the preparation is very conservative and there should be no sensitivity to the teeth. The cost of Lumineers is approximately the same as the cost of traditional veneers. There is a limit to the amount of tooth correction possible with Lumineers, as there is no shaping of your natural teeth during application. Our dental staff at Distinctive Dental is specially trained to apply Lumineers and there are a limited number of dentists offering this service. Lumineers have a 5 year warranty with proof of regular of dental cleanings. Lumineers, with proper care can last up to 20 years.
Veneers are another popular option for tooth whitening and smile correction. They are strong and difficult to stain, will last up to 15 years and can actually strengthen your teeth. Other than regular visits to your dentist, there is no additional maintenance required. Application of traditional veneers requires anesthetic as the teeth are shaved and shaped to accept the application of the veneers. Veneers are non-reversible because of the tooth structure which is lost during the preparation. Traditional veneers require Novocain because of increased sensitivity during the tooth shaping for the preparation. There may be some additional sensitivity after application process and a period of about two weeks to a month to get used to the way your new smile feels. Veneers can completely transform your smile.
Talk to us if you suffer from bruxism (clenching or grinding your teeth) as this can damage your veneers. We may recommend a mouth guard at night to help protect your new smile.
At Home Professional Tooth Whitening Kits
At home kits are fast, affordable and no tooth impression is needed. The typical cost for a professional at home whitening kit is around $100. Patients wear the strips for 5 minutes each day for 21 days to achieve the best results. At home whitening kits whiten only the front teeth and may require frequent touch ups depending on your diet. There is no change to the shape of the tooth as with veneers or Lumineers as these kits can only whiten existing tooth structure.
In-Office Professional Tooth Whitening
Known as Sapphire Whitening, our professional in-office tooth whitening will whiten and brighten all your teeth, including the posterior. Patients choosing this service keep the specially fitted whitening trays and can purchase whitening gel for occasional touch ups. At home, the touch up requires only that you wear the tray for 3 minutes a day for 21 days or until you achieve the desired results. The process is generally comfortable, fast and requires no anesthetic. There is very little sensitivity. The process does require an impression for the custom trays, and some patients may have a gag reflex which can make the process more difficult. A professional in-office whitening typically costs around $500 and takes about 1 hour of light active whitening combined with the gel. As with at home whitening, there is no change to the shape or alignment of the teeth. To learn more, read my detailed article on what to expect during a professional tooth whitening.
No matter what option you choose, Distinctive Dental is here to help you achieve the smile you want. Learn more about our New Patient Specials, contact us for a consultation today or call us with any questions you may have.
Dr. Charles Miller