Tooth Chatter Archive



Welcome to Our Blog!  

Durham Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics wants to be your source for information about your child’s teeth and oral health.  It is a truth that children with healthy mouths experience a higher quality of life.  Children with cavities suffer from pain and infection; the discomfort leads to poorer nutrition and school performance.  Therefore, prevention strategies need to begin even before the first tooth erupts. 

We hope this blog will provide you with some smiles, some news, and some direction on how to care for your family’s teeth.  Our first few posts will focus on the period from birth to when the first teeth begin to erupt.  This is the time when you set the habits of diet and oral hygiene that will lead to a lifetime of excellent dental health.

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Now let’s chat…


February 17, 2016

“Have you considered dentistry as a career?”

When I speak with high school or college students about the career they are considering, I often get a variety of answers.  Many respond with, “I would like to something in engineering, maybe business or accounting or a career in medicine.”  I feel all of these are great professions, but I often wonder if they have considered a career in dentistry.

Dentistry is a profession that is more than drilling and filling cavities, doing cleanings and obtaining x-rays.  There are several dental specialties many people may not have heard of.  These professions include oral surgery, endodontics (root canal specialist), orthodontist (braces), oral pathologist, periodontist (gum specialist) and also general dentistry.  As a dental student myself, I was surprised to learn that a dentist can also consider a career in research  (working with the NIH or CDC) or as an academician.  There are many avenues or directions you can take which make our profession very rewarding.

In preparation for dental school, most programs (not all) require their applicants to have a bachelor’s degree.  Many applicants are science majors, but this is not a requirement.  If you visit any dental school’s website, you can easily find more information regarding the required courses, average GPA, dental admittance test (DAT) scores and community service experience.  Visiting several dental schools’ websites can give you more information about what you need to do to become a more competitive applicant.

What many college students do not know is there are summer opportunities for college students at dental schools across the US.   Several of these programs are free or low cost.  These programs provide opportunities for you to learn more about the dental program, possibly take mock dental classes and to interact with current dental students.  It is a great way to decide if dentistry is a career you would like to pursue.  The key is to apply early because the deadline for these programs are usually mid-February to early March.

So why not consider a career in dentistry?  The next time you visit Durham Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics talk to Dr. Felicia or Dr. John about a career in dentistry.  We have hosted several former patients as interns who have gone on to dental school and dental careers.  We would love to work with you!

Written by: Felicia V. Swinney, DMD, MS 

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July 8, 2014 

When is the best time to bring my child in for their first dental visit?”

If you were to ask your neighbor, your sister with three children, your pediatrician, your dentist, and a pediatric dentist this same question,  you may very well get five different answers! So, who do we listen to?  Your sister may have taken all her kids to the dentist at age 5 and none of them had any dental problems – why not do the same with your kids?  Seems logical, right?

I understand, but hear me out…

I have seen many 5 year olds come in for their first dental visit with a clean, healthy mouth.  On the other hand, I have seen a 3 year old with cavities that could have been prevented had we seen them at a younger age.  Mom says the 3 year old can’t even sit still for a haircut – and now a filling?   This will be an adventure, won’t it?

We see children with cavities despite the parent’s best efforts.  Parents may be brushing their child’s teeth regularly, keeping them away from juice, and never putting them to bed with a bottle; yet cavities develop.  What’s going on here?  How can we prevent this?

At Durham Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics we feel it is important to schedule your child’s first dental exam as soon as the first teeth start to erupt – especially if it is your first-born child.  This first exam has the following main goals:

  1. Discuss cavity prevention strategies: The early exam allows the dentist and dental team to discuss prevention strategies that are catered to your child.  This personalized prevention plan takes into account your child’s temperament, overall health, dental health, feeding habits, and sleeping habits.
  2. Discuss trauma prevention, teething, and habits:  In addition to diet and hygiene strategies, your dentist may discuss injury prevention strategies, suggestions to alleviate teething discomfort, and advice on how and when to discourage habits such as thumb sucking and pacifiers.  They will discuss the effect of each on the developing bite.
  3. Identify “high-risk” teeth:  Some children have teeth develop with weakened or no enamel.  This puts the child at a high risk for developing cavities.  We find they benefit from more frequent check-ups, early fluoride exposure, and customized diet plans.
  4. Promote confidence in the child:  Children that visit the dentist at an early age are often those that grow up to value good oral health and become wonderful dental patients – They have not had any negative dental experiences which leads to more confidence, less anxiety, and more motivation towards oral health.

I hope this has given you a better understanding of the rationale for the early dental exam – just remember “first tooth, first exam” and we would add, “especially if it your first child”.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry AAPD), the American Dental Association (ADA)  and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend a dental visit for all children by age one.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

“Can breastfeeding cause cavities?”

We are asked this question daily by patients. Dr. Dolan also has a special interest in this topic since his wife Lauren is currently breastfeeding

Durham Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics always strives to base recommendations on the most current and evidence-based scientific studies.  The bottom line is there is no clear answer to the question.

We believe breastfeeding is an excellent way to provide nourishment.  However, some studies suggest breastfeeding through the night can contribute to cavities after other food sources such as baby food have been introduced.   We do not feel there is enough evidence to blame breastfeeding as a source of cavities; however, we do believe it gives us a chance to reinforce proper cleaning strategies.

When the child finishes feeding it is important to remove the breast or food source from the mouth.  Residual or unswallowed milk in the mouth can create an environment where cavities can easily develop.  We suggest cleaning the child’s teeth with a washcloth or brush before their last nursing in the evening and to brush again in the morning.  This removes the plaque (bacteria) that can use the food source to cause cavities.  Gently wiping the teeth after a nighttime feeding is also a good idea.

Our take home message:  if breastfeeding continues beyond the first year, minimize “middle of the night” feedings and make sure you are brushing your child’s teeth before and after sleep!

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Monday, March 31, 2014

“My baby has no teeth so we don’t need to brush, right?”

Actually, Durham Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics suggests you keep the gums clean even before the first tooth erupts.  It is important to prevent accumulation of sugars and the bacteria that use these sugars.  If your child carries the bacteria that cause cavities, the tooth decay process can begin soon after the first tooth erupts.  We want you to prevent this by using a clean washcloth to rub the gums gently at least twice a day (preferably after nursing or feeding).  Then, once the first tooth erupts, you can use a washcloth or an infant toothbrush to brush the teeth after meals or at least twice a day.  You can try brushing their teeth when they are in the highchair after a meal, during bath-time, or you can lay your child in your lap (this is better using two adults, one as the “brusher” and one as the “distractor/handholder” although it can be done by yourself although a little more challenging).

During the first year Durham Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics recommends you use a non-fluoridated toothpaste or plain water to brush your child’s teeth.  If we feel your child has a high risk of developing cavities we may recommend using toothpaste with fluoride.  Be sure to use a soft bristle brush and change from the washcloth to a toothbrush when the first molars appear.  Good luck – with time you’ll get in a routine that works best for you and your child.

 Never… Ever… EVER!

The most destructive cavities we see at Durham Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics are caused by the nursing bottle.  Once your child is able to hold a bottle it is extremely important to take away the bottle when you put your child to bed (nap time or at night).  When the child falls asleep, the milk or juice pools around the teeth and creates the perfect environment for bacteria to feed and grow.  The result is cavities on nearly all the teeth!  You may put the child in bed with a bottle filled with water but please never, ever, ever with milk, juice, or soda.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Let’s pass good habits to our kids, not bugs!

Did you know a child is born without the bacteria that cause cavities??  Where do they come from?  They can get them from siblings, children at day care, but mostly from their mom or dad!  It is really simple, if a child is exposed to cavity-causing bacteria at a young age (6-12 months) they are at a higher risk for developing cavities.  We need to delay this exposure as long as possible.

How do we do that?  First, it is important that parents and siblings have a clean, healthy mouth.  Studies show the primary source of bacteria is the primary caretaker.  Let’s focus on mom – she has the bacteria that cause cavities in her mouth but that number is kept to a minimum by these strategies:  brush twice a day (preferably with a fluoride toothpaste), floss daily, and minimize your intake of sugary foods.  It is also important to see your dentist regularly.   If you have cavities, you are more likely to pass them to your child.  Try to minimize actions that can share bacteria such as cleaning off the pacifier with your mouth, or sharing utensils or toothbrushes.   The bottom line?  Parents with clean and health mouths will have children with fewer cavities and tooth problems.

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The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry AAPD), the American Dental Association (ADA)  and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend a dental visit for all children by age one.