Learn great tips and tricks from our top contributor, Captain Smiles. We've got answers and info to help you maintain healthy dental health at Spirit Dental!

Baby's First Dentist Appointment | How to Prepare

Dentist opening babies mouth to look at teeth

It’s time for your baby’s first trip to the dentist! This can be both exciting and a little scary, especially since it will be a totally new experience for your little one, who might feel uneasy about being in a strange place with a dentist he or she has never met. However, there are steps you can take to prepare and to ensure everything will go smoothly. To see what we mean, check out our tips below.

When Should Your Baby See the Dentist for the First Time?

A commonly asked question is: when should I take my baby to the dentist for the first time?

Well, experts recommend that you make an appointment within six months when you notice your little one’s first tooth grow in, or at least before your child’s first birthday rolls around. That’s because even those tiny little teeth can develop cavities!

Is your child over a year old but hasn’t seen the dentist yet? No worries! Just make an appointment ASAP to gain some valuable insight into keeping your baby’s teeth and gums clean and strong, and to get your child accustomed to being in the dentist’s chair.

Start by Choosing the Right Dentist for Your Baby

Should you take your baby to your regular dentist, or should you look for a pediatric dentist? It’s really up to you and how you feel about your family dentist. However, it might be a great idea to research pediatric dentists in your area who are known for being gentle, patient, and compassionate towards children.

A pediatric dentist will have more training and experience in examining and treating children, which is definitely a plus. Also, the office and exam room will be decorated and set up in a more kid-friendly way than a regular practice, making it more welcoming and less intimidating to a little boy or girl. And the entire staff will know how to interact with children of all ages to make them feel relaxed and comfortable.

Tip: Once you’ve found some options, ask them if you can come by for a tour, during which you and your baby can see the exam room and meet some of the staff. This can help you decide if it’s really the right fit.

New Experiences: Preparing for Your Baby’s Trip to the Dentist

Going to the dentist for the very first time might cause some anxiety and fear. Again, visiting the dentist for a tour of the office before the actual appointment might be helpful, but you can also take other steps to help your baby feel at ease from start to finish.

  • Maintain a positive attitude throughout the process of getting your child ready for the appointment so your baby can feel as relaxed and content as possible. You can even bring your baby’s favorite toy or blanket to provide extra comfort. And, if your child gets frustrated during the exam, simply work with the dentist to calm your son or daughter down without getting impatient.
  • It’s a good idea to avoid scheduling an appointment when your baby would normally be napping. And it’s also smart to make sure your baby has eaten prior to the appointment. The last thing you want is to take a tired, hungry, and cranky child to the dentist!
  • Another way to make it easier on yourself is by asking the office for all of the patient forms in advance. Fill them out at home and then simply hand them in when you arrive. You might even be able to fill them out online and email them back, which could help make things even simpler.
  • Have questions for your dentist about your baby’s teeth and gums, teething, or the use of a pacifier? Maybe you want to know how to prevent bottle rot, or you need some pointers on how to properly brush your baby’s chompers. You might forget some of these important questions while you’re at the appointment, so consider writing everything down beforehand.

What Can You Expect at the Appointment?

The good news is that, oftentimes, a baby’s first trip to the dentist will be a short and easy one. It can serve as an opportunity to have the dentist meet you and your baby, and to give you guidance and tips.

In addition to getting to know one another in a friendly and calm atmosphere, the dentist will also take some time to check your baby’s mouth. You might be able to hold your child during the entire examination so your baby can feel safe while the dentist checks the jaw, gums, teeth, and bite for any problems that need to be addressed.

Save Money with the Right Dental Insurance for Kids!

Overall, your baby’s first dental appointment doesn’t have to be a terrifying and stressful experience for anyone. With proper planning, and with the right dental insurance for kids, you can take all of the steps necessary to keep your little one’s teeth and gums in tip-top shape as he or she grows.

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How Do Dental Sealants Work?

Lady in dentist chair talking with her dentist

Have you heard of dental sealants? If you haven’t, it’s definitely worth becoming familiar with this treatment option, which might help you avoid the dreaded dentist’s drill.

What are dental sealants, and how do they work? Who would be a good candidate for a sealant, and are they really effective? We’ve got you covered with some helpful information below.

What Is a Dental Sealant?

A sealant is basically a plastic coating that your dentist can paint onto your teeth, in a thin layer, to help prevent decay. It might be clear, slightly tinted, or white in color, but you likely won’t even be able to see it.

What’s the purpose of a sealant? Well, it is used to protect the chewing surfaces of the teeth, especially the chompers in the back of the mouth, as those areas tend to be more susceptible to cavities, even if you brush and floss every day.

How Does a Dental Sealant Work?

The great thing about a sealant is that it can get into the various nooks and crannies of your teeth. Because your premolars and molars, in particular, have uneven and rough chewing surfaces, it can be easy for food particles to get stuck in there. Acid-producing bacteria might also be able to hide and thrive in those little spaces, evading your toothbrush even if you brush consistently.

Sealants work by bonding to the surface of teeth quickly and creating a sort of shield to further protect the enamel from plaque, bacteria, and acid that can wreak havoc. Therefore, your dentist might recommend a sealant to help prevent cavities in the first place or to try to halt decay from progressing while it’s still in an early stage.

How Effective Are Dental Sealants?

Experts have found that sealants may help lower the risk of tooth decay in molars by 80% for two years and by 50% for up to four years. That’s impressive!

But it doesn’t even stop there. In school-age kids, those who haven’t had sealants applied to their teeth develop nearly three times more cavities compared to kids that have had sealants applied to their chompers.

In other words, sealants might be an effective way to prevent tooth decay in children, teens, and adults. And, sometimes, a sealant might be recommended for children who still have their baby teeth!

But, wait, how long does a sealant last? Well, it might last almost a decade! Pretty awesome, right? However, you do need to see your dentist regularly to ensure the sealant isn’t wearing away or chipping, and to check that the sealant hasn’t fallen off. Don’t worry: if there are any problems with a sealant, it can easily be reapplied.

What to Expect When Getting a Dental Sealant

More good news: dental sealants are painless, and the process for applying them is super simple and takes mere minutes.

  1. A dental hygienist or your dentist will start by cleaning and drying the teeth that will be sealed.
  2. Then, they’ll apply an acid solution to the chewing surfaces of the teeth (this will allow the sealant to bond to each tooth effectively) before rinsing and drying the teeth again.
  3. Finally, the sealant is painted on and allowed to harden, sometimes with the help of a special light.

Think Dental Sealants Might Be Right for You?

Talk to your dentist about sealants and their pros and cons. You might be the ideal candidate for this treatment, which can help you rest assured that you’re doing everything you can to keep cavities at bay. And, with the right dental insurance, you might even be able to save money when opting to have a sealant applied to your teeth or to your child’s teeth. Then, it’s just a matter of brushing and flossing daily at home, and making appointments for checkups and cleanings on a regular basis.

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Your Guide to Overbite Correction

Young adult looking in mirror at dentist office and smiling

Do your upper front teeth overlap or protrude over your bottom teeth? Then you might have what’s known as an overbite.

While a minor overbite may not be a problem, your dentist will likely recommend fixing a more severe overbite so it doesn’t lead to problems down the road, like headaches and jaw pain. Plus, an overbite might even impact your speech, so resolving this issue sooner rather than later is best.

If you have been diagnosed with an overbite, or your child has one, don’t worry, as there are several ways that you can go about treating this problem. Check out our guide below to see what we mean.

Don’t Hesitate to Correct an Overbite, Even If You’re an Adult!

First of all, an orthodontist can determine which overbite treatment options would be right for you. Also, keep in mind that treatment may take quite a bit of time, sometimes up to a couple of years or more, but it will be more than worthwhile.

Generally, treating an overbite in kids will be easier because they’re still growing and their jaws are still developing. However, adults can also fix this problem, so there’s no need to think that you can’t get relief from your symptoms just because you’re older.

What Are the Main Treatment Options for Overbite?

Various factors, such as your age, the condition of your jaw, and the severity of your overbite, will help your orthodontist determine the appropriate treatment plan that will deliver the best results in the shortest amount of time possible.

  • Braces and retainers are common solutions for both children and adults with an overbite. These can help slowly fix the overbite by moving the teeth into their proper positions. You might be told that fixed braces, which you can’t remove on your own, are best for your condition, or you might be able to go with removable aligners, such as Invisalign. However, aligners may not be appropriate for kids who haven’t had all of their permanent teeth grow in yet.

    Also, there are various types of braces, and some will be more visible than others, so you can discuss the pros and cons of each with your orthodontist. Metal braces might be the ideal solution if you have a more complex overbite. But if you don’t want it to be obvious that you’re wearing braces, lingual braces that are attached to the backs of the teeth aren’t as visible, and they might be an option as well, depending on the severity of your overbite.

  • Appliances, such as a bionator, biteplane, utility arch, palatal expander, and turbo brackets, might be prescribed to treat an overbite. Some appliances are removable, and some are used prior to braces.

  • Tooth extractions might be necessary in some cases. For example, a child may need to have baby teeth removed to make extra room to ensure the permanent teeth will grow in straight. In adults, teeth may need to be extracted before using braces in order to make sure there’s enough space for all of the teeth to be properly aligned.

  • Surgery might be required when orthodontics wouldn’t do enough to correct an overbite in adults. For example, if the overbite is caused by a skeletal problem with the jaw, a surgical procedure may be necessary.

  • For kids and teens, there are several options available to tackle an overbite while the jaw and mouth are still developing. For example, an orthodontist might recommend what’s known as a growth modification device to position the jaw, or a space maintainer to hold an empty space after a baby tooth is lost too early and you’re waiting for the permanent tooth to take its place.

Worried About the Cost of Overbite Correction?

Treating an overbite can certainly get pricey right away, but having a high-quality dental insurance plan in place can help you get the treatment you need to fix this problem. With Spirit Dental, you can reap the benefits of coverage for children’s orthodontics when your son or daughter has an overbite, and you can also enjoy savings when you need to receive dental treatments as an adult.

The bottom line is this: if you have an overbite that is affecting you in any way, such as by causing pain or making you feel insecure, there’s no need to live with it. With so many treatment options available, and affordable dental insurance to help cover the cost, you don’t have to hesitate to see your dentist and orthodontist for advice.

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Vision, Dental, and Medicare: What is Covered?

Older couple looking over paperwork of what is covered with their dental insurance

A commonly asked question is: will Medicare cover vision and dental? After all, the world of medical insurance can be confusing! To help, we’ve compiled some handy information that you can use to be sure every aspect of your health care needs are covered.

First Up, Is Dental Care Covered by Medicare?

Medicare is a little disappointing when it comes to covering dental care. If you need to see the dentist for anything like a checkup, cleaning, cavity filling, or extraction, or for things like dentures, implants, and bridges, it won’t cover you. What it might cover, however, is certain types of dental care you receive while you’re in a hospital as an inpatient.

The problem is that seeing your dentist on a regular basis as you get older becomes increasingly more important. Seniors may be at a greater risk of a wide range of oral health problems, and having your teeth, gums, and mouth checked by a professional can alert you to problems in their earliest stages, when they’re usually easier to treat.

What About Vision Care? Is It Covered by Medicare at All?

Like dental coverage, vision coverage is lacking under Original Medicare (Parts A and B), but receiving this care is really important, especially when you’re older. If you rely only on Medicare and you need a routine exam for your glasses or contacts, you’ll likely need to pay for it out of pocket unless you get additional coverage.

Part B might help with the costs of some tests and treatments related to certain eye and vision disorders. These might include tests to check for conditions like glaucoma and macular degeneration. Also, if you need surgery for cataracts, and corrective lenses following the procedure, or if you suffer from an eye injury, Medicare might help in those situations as well.

It Needs to Be Medically Necessary

Medicare Part A and Part B will typically only step in and help pay for care you receive when it’s deemed “medically necessary.” Because general dental and vision care isn’t considered medically necessary, things like your standard eye exam and dental exam, as well as certain services and treatments, won’t be covered.

In other words, Original Medicare usually won’t step in and help cover the cost of routine vision care and dental care. However, if you need to receive care that’s related to an emergency treatment or an underlying health problem, Medicare might step in. Follow-up care, though, may not be covered, so that’s important to keep in mind as well.

If you want Medicare to help with dental and vision care, you have the option of looking into Advantage (Part C) plans that may meet your needs. These are provided by private insurers, so coverage and costs will vary from one plan to the next, and it’s important to read the fine print to see just how far your coverage will go beyond routine care.

What’s the Solution?

To really know what’s covered and what’s not, carefully review the details of your Medicare plan. That way, you’ll know exactly what to expect, and you’ll know whether or not you need to purchase additional insurance.

If you want to be sure you’ll have peace of mind when it comes to dental and vision services that you need as a senior, don’t worry! There are standalone dental and vision plans, such as those offered by Spirit Dental and Spirit Vision. These are surprisingly affordable, yet they’re comprehensive and can cover everything from routine exams to corrective lenses for your eyes and a variety of oral health treatments for your teeth and gums.

Bottom line: The right standalone insurance plan can help you save a lot of money that you would otherwise be forced to spend out of pocket if you only relied on Medicare. And we all know how expensive dental and vision care can get!

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Medicare Coverage and What the Extra Coverage Is

Older couple at kitchen table looking over insurance paperwork

Medicare: it can provide great health insurance, but it can also be confusing to figure it all out, especially if you’re turning 65 and you’ll be applying for it for the first time.

To help clear things up, here’s some information on what Medicare coverage provides, along with some info on the extra coverage options that are available, and why they are available.

With a better understanding of what you’re actually going to be getting through Medicare, you can make a smarter decision when it comes to purchasing supplemental plans that you think you’ll need.

Medicare Coverage: The Basics

When you start getting to know Medicare better, you’ll notice that there are different versions, referred to as “parts.”

  • Part A is hospital insurance. This means it will cover inpatient hospital stays, care you receive in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some home health care.
  • Part B is medical insurance. This will cover certain doctors’ services, along with medical supplies, preventive services, and outpatient care.
  • Part D is prescription drug coverage. You can add this coverage to your Medicare plan if you want. But you need to get these plans from insurance companies and private companies that have Medicare approval.

But, wait, what about Part C?

  • Part C is referred to as Medicare Advantage. You’ve probably heard of it. This is an alternative option to Original Medicare, as it’s an all-in-one solution that bundles Parts A and B. Part D is usually included as well, so you can get prescription drug coverage too.

As you can see, if you don’t have Medicare Part C (even if you have both Parts A and B), you’re going to have some gaps in coverage. Scary when you’re a senior who might need to see the doctor more often!

And Dental Coverage? Is It Part of Medicare?

One thing you might have observed while reading through the info on Medicare above is that dental and vision aren’t mentioned. Unfortunately, Original Medicare doesn’t cover most dental care, and it doesn’t cover dentures or eye exams related to prescription glasses.

Part A might step in and help if you need to receive dental care in a hospital or during an emergency, but the dental care itself might not be covered. Yeah, it’s complicated.

To get those extra levels of coverage, you’d need to get a Medicare Advantage Plan. With this type of plan, you would be able to receive coverage for dental, vision, hearing, and prescriptions.

But with this extra coverage also comes an extra monthly premium, so that’s something to consider for your budget. And there might be limitations to think about as well. For example, dental benefits may only cover things like exams, cleanings, and bitewing X-rays, leaving you with the financial burden of more expensive treatments.

Side note: It’s also worth mentioning that, if a service isn’t deemed medically necessary by Medicare, you’ll likely need to pay for it yourself. And that can get expensive!

A Wise Alternative Option for Seniors: Stand-Alone Dental Insurance

When Medicare falls short, don’t fret. You still have other options! Signing up for a stand-alone dental or vision insurance plan, like those offered by Spirit, can put you in control and give you more choices.

Let’s face it: seniors have a lot to think about when it comes to their oral health. The risk for problems like cavities and gum disease, as well as mouth cancer, increases with age. You might end up needing expensive procedures like root canals or extractions, and you may decide to get dentures, bridges, or implants.

This all adds up, but the right insurance can help you rest easy, knowing that the costs are covered and you don’t have to break the bank to maintain a healthy mouth and beautiful smile.

Here are a few things you can expect from Spirit’s senior dental insurance:

Don’t Let Medicare Hold You Back!

While Medicare has its perks, it can be lacking when it comes to covering important dental care for seniors. Remember, your oral health can impact your overall health, and certain medical conditions can put your teeth and gums at risk as well. So, having a comprehensive dental plan that will allow you to see the dentist you want and receive high-quality treatments is definitely a step that every senior should consider taking.

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Ok, Boomer... Here's What You Need To Know About Your Teeth As You Age

Older man smiling while looking at his teeth in mirror

Your whole body transforms in dramatic ways as you get older, but did you know that teeth also undergo a lot of changes? Knowing what to expect when it comes to your pearly whites, and having an understanding of aging teeth problems, will help you stay in control so you can keep your gums strong and your smile bright.

Below is a short list of some of the main things that can happen to the teeth and gums as you age.

Gum Problems, Dry Mouth, and Cavities - Oh My!

As your body gets older, cells begin to renew more slowly, bones are no longer as strong or dense as they used to be, the immune system becomes weaker, and the tissues of the body become less elastic and thinner than they were in the past. All of these changes can affect the health of your teeth and gums in various ways.

Once you hit your golden years, you might be more prone to the following:

  • Gum problems – Seniors might have higher odds of developing gingivitis and more advanced gum disease. Risk factors include poor oral hygiene, diabetes, a weak immune system, dry mouth, and smoking.

You might look in the mirror and start to notice that your gums are swollen or receding, exposing more of the teeth and making it easier for harmful bacteria to wreak havoc.

Left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss, and you might end up needing dentures, bridges, or implants to replace missing teeth. So it’s important to talk to your dentist about what you can do to strengthen the gums again.

  • Dry mouth – If you’re experiencing dry mouth, see your doctor to figure out the cause. For example, there are hundreds of medications that seniors take for a wide range of health problems, and those prescriptions might result in dry mouth as a side effect.

    Relieving dry mouth is important, as it may lead to the development of cavities if not treated. Plus, it may also increase the risk of gum disease, thrush, mouth sores, and trouble chewing, tasting, and swallowing.

    What are some of the steps you can take to combat dry mouth? Well, you could try drinking more water, chewing on sugar-free gum, using mouthwash, avoiding any foods and beverages that irritate your mouth, and talking to your doctor about switching to a medication that doesn’t cause dry mouth as a side effect.

  • Cavities Even if you didn’t get cavities often while you were young, now that you’re older, you might be more susceptible to tooth decay. This increased risk may be the result of no longer taking care of your teeth and gums as well as you used to, or it might be because you have receding gums or dry mouth.

    Another change that occurs with age: the enamel, which is the tough outer layer of the teeth, begins to wear away more and more. This, in turn, may also increase your susceptibility to decay and cavities. Not fun!

Be Aware of the Risk of Developing Oral Cancer

It’s scary but true: oral cancer risk increases when you’re a senior. In terms of prevention, one of the best steps you can take immediately is to quit smoking or using tobacco products. Another step you can take is reducing the amount of alcohol that you drink.

What else can you do? See your dentist regularly for checkups, and make an appointment right away if you start to experience any strange symptoms. Your dentist will be able to examine your mouth to look for the earliest signs of cancer. Plus, because poor oral hygiene may boost the risk of oral cancer, your dentist can see how well you’re keeping up with your at-home routine and let you know if you need to make any adjustments to it.

Dental Insurance for Seniors Can Help You Save Money!

There are a lot of problems that can develop in your mouth as you get older, which is why senior dental care is so important.

Worried about being able to afford expensive dental treatments, especially if you’re on a fixed income? The solution is simple: having insurance, particularly when you’re older and more susceptible to developing oral health ailments, is wise.

Plans for seniors will allow you to save loads of money every time you visit the dentist. And they can help even more if you ever need major services like dental implants. Plus, high-quality policies like those offered by Spirit Dental can give you access to three cleanings per year, which is great because it’s important for seniors to see the dentist more often.

Remember, no matter your age, seeing your dentist regularly can help prevent problems before they occur, or at least treat them in their earliest stages. And following a strict oral hygiene routine at home can also help you maintain the health of your mouth for as long as possible.

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What Happens When Cavities Are Left Untreated?

Doctor Dentist Showing Patients Teeth On Xray

Do you think you might have a cavity because you have a lot of sensitivity, or maybe even a toothache that won’t go away? Are you avoiding going to the dentist? Or have you been told that you have a cavity, but you’re avoiding getting it drilled and filled? Unfortunately, that’s a really bad idea.

What happens when cavities are left untreated? Do they just stay the same, or can they get worse? We cover the basics below so you can better understand why it’s always best to address any cavities that you’re dealing with.

Tooth Decay: Here’s How It Progresses

Let’s start by covering the stages of tooth decay so you can see how a minor problem can turn into a major one if you don’t take care of it in time.

  1. It starts with demineralization, or the weakening of your enamel, which is the hard outer layer of your teeth. At this point, you might be able to get fluoride treatments at your dentist’s office to help give the enamel a boost of strength. You can also eat healthy foods that could help remineralize the teeth, while avoiding foods that are acidic or sugary. And you can step up your oral hygiene game to be even more diligent with brushing and flossing daily at home.
  2. If your enamel continues to weaken, decay will result. You might start to feel some tooth sensitivity, and your dentist will notice a small cavity in the outermost layer of the tooth upon taking some X-rays. Treatment at this stage would probably be a small filling, which would stop the progression.
  3. If you don’t stop decay with a filling in time, it might move into the next layer of your tooth, which is the dentin. Sensitivity, such as when you chew, may be more obvious, and your dentist will be able to see the cavity on an X-ray. A larger filling will likely be needed, and you might even need a crown.
  4. Let’s say you still haven’t taken any action. Well, the decay can then make its way into the inner portion of the tooth, known as the pulp. By now, you might even feel a toothache, and your dentist may tell you that you need a root canal to clean out the decay and infection, along with a crown to restore the look of your tooth.
  5. The last and most severe stage of the decay would be when it goes so deep that it causes an abscess at the roots under your gums. You may or may not be in a lot of pain, and there might be swelling. To resolve this serious problem before it escalates further, you might need a root canal, surgery to drain the abscess, or a tooth extraction.

Note: At these various stages of decay, you may not feel pain or it may not be intense, so don’t go by how much discomfort you feel. Instead, continue seeing your dentist regularly to catch problems that you might not even be aware of.

The Complications That Could Arise from Leaving Cavities Untreated

You already know that leaving a cavity untreated will only give it the chance to continue getting worse and worse until you risk developing an infection and losing the tooth. But there are other complications to be aware of as well.

  • Remember, you might not feel any sensitivity until the cavity has reached the dentin layer of the tooth. Then, if left untreated, you’ll likely experience increasing amounts of sensitivity when you consume hot or cold foods and beverages. That’s because, as the decay gets deeper into the tooth, the nerves will become more exposed.
  • More pain, and more frequent pain, even when you chew on soft things, is another complication. The pain might come on quickly, and it might happen again and again. It might also radiate to other parts of your mouth. Keep in mind that, once a cavity reaches the dentin, it can progress even more quickly than it did in the enamel because the inner parts of the tooth are softer.
  • Once bacteria reaches the pulp, where you’ll find blood vessels and nerves, that’s when infection can occur. Complications might include persistent, severe pain, as well as symptoms like fever and a bad taste in your mouth.
  • Left alone, an infection in your tooth might spread to your jawbone, creating even bigger problems. But it doesn’t even stop there because there is the potential that it could enter the bloodstream and spread to other parts of your body too. Yikes!
  • As decay progresses, there’s a bigger risk of chipping or breaking the tooth. And as an infection worsens, there may also be pus around the tooth, and it might drain from a swollen and red area of the gums. Ick!

That Little Cavity Will Keep Growing If Left Untreated!

The bottom line is this: once decay has taken hold, it is difficult to halt it. And leaving even a minor cavity untreated might lead to nasty complications down the road. That’s why it’s best to see your dentist regularly for checkups, as doing so can help you find out if you have a cavity sooner rather than later. Once you know that you have a cavity that needs to be fixed, it’s best to do so ASAP.

Worried about being able to afford seeing the dentist often enough, and being able to afford treatments like fillings for cavities? Check out the Spirit dental insurance plans that are surprisingly low-cost yet provide comprehensive coverage that will put your mind, and your wallet, at ease.

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How to Inspire Healthy Dental Habits for Your Kids

Boy showing his mom how well he brushed.

The sooner your kids learn the value of good oral hygiene, the better. If they understand the importance of brushing and flossing every day, they’ll be more inclined to continue those healthy habits as they get older. And if they get used to seeing the dentist on a regular basis, they’ll realize that there’s nothing to be afraid of whenever they need a checkup, cleaning, or treatment.

How can you inspire healthy dental habits for your kids? It’s easier than you think! We’ve compiled a few tips below that you can use to get started.

Start Really Early

Did you know that your baby’s oral care begins before the first tooth even erupts from the gums? It’s true!

You can start by wiping your baby’s gums gently. Then, move on to using a little toothbrush to gently clean those pearly whites as they erupt. The idea is that you get your child used to having their teeth and gums cleaned every day.

In addition to starting early when it comes to your child’s at-home oral hygiene routine, it’s also a great idea to have your baby see the dentist to become acquainted with what it’s like to have a preventive checkup. How soon can you start? Well, by your baby’s first birthday, or within six months of the appearance of the first little tooth. Simple enough!

Let Them Watch and Mimic You

Your kids learn a lot by simply observing you. So if you’re taking stellar care of your teeth by brushing and flossing every day, they might be more inclined to do the same because they’ll want to be like you.

Show your kids that you brush twice a day and floss once a day. Let them watch you as you brush for two minutes at a time, and show them how you clean between your teeth with string floss or a water flosser. Then, give them the chance to try doing the same to keep their teeth and gums nice and clean.

Beyond showing, also tell your kids why oral care is an integral component of your daily routine. Teach them that it also needs to be a part of their routine so they can have a beautiful smile for years to come.

Make It Fun and Interesting

Some kids might be more inclined to stick to this routine if they can use high-tech products, like electric toothbrushes that have built-in timers and connect to an app, or water flossers that can help reduce the time it takes to floss.

Also, if your child isn’t a fan of mint flavor, there are kid-friendly toothpastes that feature milder flavors that can help encourage brushing.

And if your kids tend to feel bored while brushing and flossing, you can try strategies like playing music while they brush, or letting them use a kid’s toothbrush that features a favorite cartoon character.

When you’re really struggling, consider offering rewards if your kids maintain their oral hygiene routine for a week or longer. This might help motivate them to make time daily to brush and floss.

Healthy Diet = Healthier Teeth

Another important lesson to teach your kids: eating nutritious foods can help promote oral health. Once again, showing your kids how it’s done can do a lot more than merely telling them about the need to eat well.

Try to reduce the amount of packaged, processed food and sugary drinks that your kids consume. Also, limit sticky and starchy foods, candy, and carbonated beverages. Instead, serve up meals and snacks that are packed with natural ingredients, like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and encourage your kids to drink pure water.

Kids who learn to eat healthy foods while they’re young are more likely to continue eating that way as they get older. On the other hand, if your kids become too accustomed to eating unhealthy foods, it might be a challenge when you try to undo those eating habits. So, whether you’re preparing your child’s school lunch or you’re making dinner and dessert at home, aim to use ingredients that help support strong teeth and healthy gums.

Set Appointments for the Whole Family

To make going to the dentist a less stressful experience, consider making it a family event. See if you can arrange it so that your child can have their dental appointment when you have yours. That way, they won’t have to feel as though they’re doing it all alone, and you can show them that it isn’t a big deal at all. Plus, by making appointments for yourself, you can lead by example again.

Dental Insurance Has Your Back

Want to make trips to the dentist more affordable so that no member of your family ever has to skip an appointment? Check out the family dental insurance plans available from Spirit Dental. They help cover the cost of checkups, three cleanings per year, orthodontics, and more.

Overall, with a few simple steps that you can take every day, you can instill healthy habits in your kids. They’ll realize the importance of keeping their teeth and gums clean, and you’ll rest easy knowing you taught them well.

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Health and Dental Health - There Are More Connections Than You Think!

Dentist and patient making a heart with their hands.

Taking care of your teeth and gums by brushing and flossing daily, and by seeing your dentist at least once a year, isn’t only going to help ensure your smile remains bright and beautiful; it can also be a step towards keeping other areas of your body healthy too. That’s because, when it comes to overall health and dental health, there are more connections than you might think.

Bacteria in Your Mouth Might Make Their Way into Other Parts of Your Body

This might gross you out a bit, but the reality is that your mouth has a lot of bacteria in it. The good news is that most of that bacteria isn’t harmful, and brushing and flossing daily can do a lot to keep everything in balance.

However, when there are harmful bacteria in your mouth and you aren’t following a strict oral hygiene routine, they could lead to oral problems like tooth decay, infections, inflammation, and gum disease. Plus, there’s a chance the bacteria might spread to other parts of your body and cause other problems, particularly if you have a compromised or weakened immune system for any reason.

Unfortunately, if you have gum disease—and the bacteria that go along with it—the simple act of brushing and flossing might create an entry point for that bacteria to migrate to other parts of your body. And if you have a lot of harmful bacteria in your mouth, they might also end up in your bloodstream if you have to undergo an invasive dental procedure. Yikes!

What are some of the medical conditions that might be associated with poor oral health?

  • Cardiovascular disease (inflammation in the mouth might cause blood vessels to become inflamed as well)
  • Endocarditis
  • Pneumonia
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Arthritis
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Birth problems (such as low birth weight or premature birth)
  • Diabetes (it might become harder to control blood sugar if you have gum disease)

Your Mouth Might Help Alert Your Dentist to Other Conditions

Sometimes, oral health problems lead to other issues. Other times, the symptoms that show up in your mouth might help your dentist determine if there’s another serious medical problem that you might not know about yet.

There are various conditions that might adversely impact the health of your mouth. For example:

  • Diabetes might affect the health of your gums
  • Osteoporosis might lead to tooth loss
  • HIV/AIDS might cause lesions to develop in the mouth

Side note: The medications that you use to treat certain diseases might also impact your teeth and gums, so it’s a good idea to let your dentist know about any prescriptions you’re taking.

Just Another Reason to Take Care of Your Teeth and Gums Daily!

Although it might be unnerving to learn that the bacteria in your mouth may boost your risk of several systemic health problems, you can take control with a basic brushing and flossing routine at home. In addition to that, make it a point to regularly see your dentist for checkups and professional cleanings with the help of a high-quality dental insurance.

Let your dentist know about any chronic conditions that you’ve been diagnosed with, as well as the medications you’re using to treat those problems. And if you’re diagnosed with gum or tooth problems, treat them ASAP to help avoid complications.

Remember, it’s all connected: by taking the right steps to keep your teeth and gums healthy, you’ll also be taking steps to keep the rest of your body healthy.

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Cavities - A Deep Dive

Lady holding a large cupcake and tooth.

Whether you’ve been lucky enough to never have been diagnosed with them, or you have had to get multiple fillings throughout the years, everyone dreads being told that they have cavities.

But what are cavities, exactly? What causes them, and what can be done to prevent them? We cover the basics below so you can take extra steps towards avoiding the problems that result from extensive tooth decay.

What Are Cavities?

A cavity, or hole in a tooth, is the result of decay that has eaten away at the outer layer, and potentially the inner layer, of a tooth.

How does decay occur? Put simply, when you eat food that contains sugar or carbs, the bacteria that are already in your mouth end up creating acids. And if you eat or drink something that makes your mouth more acidic, that might also cause enamel erosion that may contribute to the development of a cavity.

Also, the combination of acid, bacteria, leftover food, and saliva create plaque on your teeth, and the acids in that plaque end up eroding your enamel. If the plaque isn’t brushed away, the damage becomes greater, especially because plaque can harden into tartar that can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning.

Are There Symptoms?

Symptoms of cavities might include:

  • Pain that ranges from mild to sharp when you eat or drink
  • Pain when biting
  • Sensitivity
  • Spontaneous toothache that seems to happen for no reason
  • Visible stains , pits, or holes in a tooth

Another unnerving thing about cavities: they don’t always cause symptoms! You could be completely unaware of the decay that’s going on in a tooth until you visit your dentist for a checkup and he or she takes x-rays that reveal the extent of the damage.

When you do feel sensitivity or a toothache, such as after you drink or eat something that’s cold, hot, or sweet, it likely means that the decay has made its way deeper into the tooth, to the point that the nerve is being affected. Ouch!

How Can Cavities Be Prevented and Treated?

With cavities, it’s all about prevention.

Although you might be able to slow, or perhaps even halt, the progression of enamel loss on a tooth’s surface if you’re really diligent with brushing, flossing, rinsing with mouthwash, and seeing your dentist, it’ll be too late if the bacteria get into your tooth. At that point, you won’t be able to brush away the bacteria and the decay it’s causing.

So, once you’ve been diagnosed with a cavity, you’ll need to go to the dentist to fix it, or it will keep getting worse. Bummer.

Thankfully, there are several treatment options available to fix cavities:

  • If the damage isn’t extensive, you might just need a filling , during which the dentist removes the decayed parts of the tooth and fills in the gap with a special amalgam or composite filling.
  • When the damage goes deeper into the tooth, such as when you feel a toothache and you head to the dentist for answers, a simple filling might not be enough. Instead, a root canal might be required. This involves removing the pulp and nerve, and then cleaning and sealing the inside of the tooth before adding a crown to the top.
  • In really extreme cases of a cavity getting so bad that there aren’t any viable treatment options, only an extraction will be able to fix the problem and prevent complications. Now, that’s intense!

Want to prevent cavities? There are plenty of steps that you can take, such as those below, and you can also ask your dentist for personalized advice:

  • Avoid snacking frequently, and avoid sipping on sugary or acidic beverages throughout the day
  • Use a mouthwash after eating, or at least rinse your mouth with water to help clear away leftover food particles
  • Avoid sticky, starchy, and sugary foods, and eat plenty of healthy options like fresh fruits and veggies
  • Brush twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste, and floss at least once a day
  • See your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings

A Final Cavity Prevention Tip:

With the right dental insurance plan, you never have to skip a beat, especially if you have a Spirit plan that offers perks like three cleanings per year to keep your teeth sparkling, strong, and cavity-free!

Be Aware of the Risk of Cavities, but Put Yourself in Control

Sure, cavities are scary, but the sooner you find out about them and get them fixed, the better. That’s why it’s so important to not only take great care of your teeth at home, but also visit your dentist on a regular basis.

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Root Canals: What They Are and How To Avoid Them

Doctor looking at tooth x-ray.

Root canals can be scary, but they might be the only way to salvage a tooth that would otherwise need to be extracted—so they can’t be that bad, right?

To learn more about what a root canal is, and to discover some of the steps you can take to limit your odds of ever needing to undergo this procedure, check out the information below.

What Are Root Canals?

Let’s say that one of your teeth has a severe amount of decay. Or, as another example, your dentist finds that one of your teeth is infected. In serious cases like these, a simple filling might not cut it. So, rather than pull the tooth, your dentist may recommend a root canal to prevent the decay or infection from spreading.

What can you expect during this procedure? Well, it’s actually pretty straightforward. And don’t worry, you’ll be numb just like when you get a filling, so you shouldn’t feel much, if anything at all.

Put simply, the dentist will work on removing the pulp and nerve in the tooth, thoroughly cleaning out the inner area of your chomper before sealing it. And a crown might be placed on top to make the tooth good as new. You get to keep your natural tooth, no extraction needed. How neat is that?!

But, wait, don’t you need the nerve of the tooth?

Nope! Your tooth will be fine even though it no longer has a nerve. That’s because, after your pearly white breaks through the gums, the nerve only serves to help you sense temperature when you eat or drink something. You’ll still be able to chew your favorite foods without a problem.

And, as far as the pulp goes, it plays an important role while your tooth is developing and growing. After that, a mature tooth can certainly remain in place and do its job if it doesn’t have a pulp. Interesting, right?

How to Avoid Root Canals

Now that you have a better idea of what a root canal involves, and when it might be necessary, it’s time to cover a few of the ways to prevent the problems that would require this procedure. After all, even though this treatment has its benefits, it isn’t something that anyone wants to have to go through if they can avoid it!

  1. Brush, floss, and see your dentist for checkups and cleanings:

    Of course, a strict oral hygiene routine is the first, and easiest, step to take to prevent needing a root canal. The right strategy can help you keep your teeth and gums clean and strong, and it may help keep decay away.

    Another reason to take really good care of your pearly whites: needing to receive several treatments on the same tooth, or needing to get a large filling in a tooth, might increase the odds of someday needing a root canal. So, if you want to avoid root canals, it’s a great idea to take steps to avoid dental decay altogether.

  2. Wear a mouthguard to prevent tooth injuries:

    If a tooth is damaged because of an injury, such as while playing sports, a root canal might be necessary, depending on the extent of the damage. So it’s wise to wear a protective mouthguard whenever you’re participating in any activities that could put your teeth at risk of being chipped or cracked.

    A mouthguard might also be helpful if your dentist has told you that your teeth are showing signs of bruxism (clenching and grinding), which may also lead to damage so severe that a root canal would be recommended.

  3. Limit foods and drinks that could damage teeth:

    What you eat and drink daily can affect the health and strength of your teeth. Hard foods, including hard candy, may increase the risk of accidentally cracking your chompers. Chewing on ice isn’t the best idea either, as it might boost the odds of cracking a tooth or damaging a filling. And if teeth are already weak, even healthy foods like crunchy veggies and fruits might lead to damage. Then, when breaks and cracks occur, bacteria can more easily make their way into a tooth to wreak havoc.

    In terms of beverages, anything sugary and acidic may increase the odds of decay. Citrus juice or soda, for example, might be detrimental because they could harm enamel, and the sugar they contain can help bacteria in the mouth thrive as well.

Root Canals - Avoidable with the Right Strategy

The bottom line is this: if you want to avoid needing a root canal, diligently caring for your teeth can make a difference. Beyond at-home care, though, having the right dental insurance will allow you to affordably see your dentist for preventive care to keep those pearly whites clean and bright. And, if you do ever end up needing a root canal, the right dental plan will also help you afford it. What’s a good place to start? Look into Spirit plans to discover what your options are when it comes to coverage for treatments like root canals.

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Swollen Gums Are Your Mouth's "Check Engine" Light

Kids smiling in a classroom before eating lunch

You already know that when the check engine light in your car comes on, something is amiss. But did you know that swollen gums are basically your mouth’s own “check engine” light? It’s true! Check out the information below to see what we mean.

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Be The Best Tooth Fairy With These Tips and Tricks

kids smiling in a classroom before eating lunch

Your child has lost a tooth, and it’s an important milestone to celebrate! In fact, it’s as exciting as when your child started teething, right?

One of the most popular ways to celebrate this step in your child’s development is by playing the role of the beloved tooth fairy. But, rather than merely putting some money under your child’s pillow, there are other creative ways to have a bit of fun and make the experience even more memorable for your little one.

Check out the tips and tricks below if you’re ready to become the best tooth fairy ever.

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10 Signs You Need Glasses (And 3 That You Don't)

kids smiling in a classroom before eating lunch

Have you been wondering if your vision could be better? Or have you noticed that your vision isn’t as good as it used to be? Maybe you’re wondering if glasses would help you see more clearly. But do you really need glasses, or can you continue doing without?

To help you answer these questions, we’ve put together a list of 10 signs you need glasses. But just keep in mind that only an eye doctor will really be able to determine if corrective lenses are right for you. So, if you have any questions about your vision, make an appointment with a professional who can examine your eyes and give you the proper diagnosis.

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Eye Problems & You: A Beginner's Guide

Man rubbing his nose to help with eye strain

Your vision is important, and part of keeping your eyes healthy involves having an understanding of some of the eye problems that may develop over time, as well as some of the problems that are quite common among the population.

To help you discover more about your eyes, we’ve compiled a short beginner’s guide to some of the ailments that your peepers might suffer from. Keep in mind that, if you start to notice any changes in your vision or you begin experiencing new symptoms, you should see an eye doctor right away to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment, and to be able to see your best.

Now, let’s get started, shall we?

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What Causes Dry Eyes?

Lady rubbing eyes at her computer

Dry eye is surprisingly common. Basically, it can develop if the quantity or quality of your tears falls short, so your eyes aren’t as lubricated as they should be.

Symptoms include discomfort, soreness, burning, stinging, redness, blurry vision, and itchiness, to name a few. So you can imagine how important it is to have this condition properly diagnosed and treated ASAP.

While the risk of this condition increases with age, there are several other causes that lead to dry eyes, and we’ve outlined them below. If you have any symptoms or you’ve been diagnosed with dry eye but your treatment isn’t working, be sure to consult with your eye doctor to get the help that you need to feel relief.

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Risk Factors for Mouth Cancer

Doctor holding a cancer ribbon

Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, can develop in any area of your mouth, such as the inside of your cheeks, the roof or floor of your mouth, your tongue or gums, and even your lips.

Having an understanding of what may cause mouth cancer is helpful, as you can then take steps to reduce your risk as much as possible. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of some of the main risk factors for this type of cancer.

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How to Clean Contact Lens Case: Stop Putting Your Contacts in a Dirty Case

filling contact lens case with solution

At the end of the day, you take out your contact lenses, put them in their case with some contact lens solution, and head to bed. The next morning, you take them out of the case and put them in your eyes before heading off to start your day. But, in between, are you taking good care of your lens case? Are you cleaning it well enough? If you aren’t, there are some scary risks involved. That’s why we’ve put together a helpful guide to show you how to clean your contact lens case properly for the health of your eyes.

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Back-to-School: Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids That Will Help Protect Their Teeth

kids smiling in a classroom before eating lunch

Back-to-school season is here again! In addition to buying your kids’ school supplies, you’re probably already busy setting up your family’s schedule as you transition back into the school year. But are you also thinking about healthy lunch ideas for your kids? After all, the right foods can help protect their teeth and gums, no matter their age, so this is a wise step to take in addition to ensuring your kids see the dentist regularly.

What are some of the healthiest lunch ideas that your kids are sure to love? The list below can help you give your children the nutrition they need to concentrate in class and keep their smiles bright for those school pictures.

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Baby Teething Timeline

Toddler brushing teeth and smiling.

Watching your baby’s first teeth come in is really exciting—and totally adorable. But what order should you expect them to erupt in? And when should you expect to see those small pearly whites show up, anyway? Oh, and how will you know if your little one’s teeth are growing on time? These are all common questions asked by parents, so we’ve created a handy baby teething timeline below that you can use to prepare yourself for what’s ahead.

A quick note: Before we dive in, just keep in mind that this is a general timeline, so your baby’s teeth might come in a little earlier or a little later than what we’ve listed. If you have any questions about your child’s dental health, it’s always best to consult with your pediatrician or your child’s dentist.

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Diane J.
Jodi Vance did a super job at helping me understand my dental insurance options and find just the right plan. She even helped me lower my cost and lock in the lowest rate when we changed to an in network Doctor. Thanks, Jodi