Preventing tooth decay in children

Preventing tooth decay in children


Most of the dental hygienists here at Lifetime Smiles Dental Hygiene Clinic are also “moms”. We care deeply about the oral health of all children.  In this age of doctor Google, there can be a great deal of conflicting healthcare advice easily accessed.

Our goal is to educate parents, caregivers, grandparents and anyone else who will listen, by providing facts. Research in dental health and products to combat tooth decay is ever changing, therefore we are continuously learning.

Sometimes going back to the basics is important. There is one truth that is important to understand, and that is Babies are not born with the bacteria that causes tooth decay, they pick it up from a parent, a caregiver, from someone else.

How does that happen? Shared saliva – licking a fork or spoon and sharing with a baby, testing babies food first, or licking off the pacifier instead of washing it off with water (you know you’ve done that!). You can easily see there are many ways saliva (and germs) can be transferred.  Caregivers with active dental disease and tooth decay are potentially going to be a source of significant bacteria.

A great source of information can be found on the following site-  American Pediatric Dentistry 


The results are in…decay is on the rise in Calgary

Is there a dental topic more polarizing than water fluoridation? Supporters adamantly defend this public health initiative and opponents are just as resolute in their position.

On the fence about community water fluoridation?  An internet search on the topic can lead to hours of reading, and information that is all over the map. Adding to public perplexity is the fact that within dental health communities you will find both supporters and opponents, even though the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association and Canadian Dental Association both have position statements supporting community water fluoridation, (1,2) as do a long list of other organizations and groups. (1)

One thing that is clear, regardless of your stance on fluoride, tooth decay rates have increased among children in Calgary since water fluoridation was discontinued in May 2011. This was brought to media attention in 2014, with Registered Dental Hygienist, Denise Kokaram speaking out about significant tooth decay being treated on the Alex Dental Health Bus,

 “more than half of the children who get treated on the bus have tooth decay”, she said. “We see lower self-esteem with these kids, attention spans are affected. Loss of days at school.”(3)

At this same time, Calgary pediatric dentist Dr. Sarah Hulland said

I’m seeing a lot more children having a lot more cavities. I’m seeing a lot of decay on 19- to 20-month babies, and this is even before they’ve got all the teeth in.

We frequently have to put them to sleep to rehabilitate them. We don’t have enough anaesthetists that actually help us to put them to sleep. We don’t have enough OR time. We don’t have enough manpower to actually do the care that needs to be given.

What used to be a one-month wait to see a pediatric dentist in Calgary is now at least three months.” (3)

Fast forward to today, and now we have hard data thanks to a recently published study carried out in Alberta. 

Lead author Lindsay McLaren, PhD, from the Cumming School of Medicine and O’Brien Institute for Public Health revealed children in Calgary are experiencing higher rates of tooth decay compared to children of the same age in Edmonton.

Comparing more than 5,000 grade two children in both cities, “there was a worsening in tooth decay in Calgary since the discontinuation of fluoridation in 2011, compared to Edmonton, where water is still fluoridated. In fact, the number of tooth surfaces with decay per child increased by 3.8 surfaces in Calgary during the time frame of the study, compared to only 2.1 in Edmonton. This is a statistically significant difference. The average child has about 20 teeth with four or five surfaces per tooth.”(4)

Dr.Mclaren says, “We first of all looked at trends over time in tooth decay in the two cities and whether there was a difference and after that we systematically went through and explored a number of possible alternative explanations for those differences. Everything pointed pretty consistently to fluoridation cessation being the main reason for the difference.”(4)

You can read the full study here htttp:// (5)

At Lifetime Smiles Dental Hygiene Clinic, we provide our patients with recommendations based on their individual dental health needs, which may or may not include fluoride treatments. We respect a patient’s decision regarding treatments they consent to, and treatments they decline. 

When demineralization is present, or an individual (child or adult) is a high risk for tooth decay, fluoride and re-mineralizing fluoride alternatives can be recommended. Our philosophy of care is to treat individuals on an individual basis. 

Children should be seen for their first visit with a dental health care provider 6 months after their first tooth erupts, or by age 1 year. Lifetime Smiles Dental Hygiene Clinic offers to see children for this first visit at no charge. It is an important visit, despite the myth that baby teeth are NOT important. Baby teeth are VERY important. Let’s work together to ensure a future of cavity free adults, who do not require dental filling replacement over and over throughout their lives. Tooth decay is preventable. Let’s work together to prevent it.



Post Author: Sally Lloyd BScDH, Registered Dental Hygienist at Lifetime Smiles Dental Hygiene Clinic , Calgary,AB

Don’t Suck Lemons!


Did you know sucking fresh lemons or limes can have a detrimental impact on tooth enamel? The acidic pH of these citrus fruits can create an acidic oral environment, which allows for minerals to leech out of tooth enamel. A bit of lemon juice diluted in drinking water is not likely going to have the same negative impact. Diluted is the key.

In fact, a study in Brazil showed essential oils of lemon to be beneficial in inhibiting oral microorganisms.

If you like lemon water, drink up. If you are concerned about possible effects of demineralization – talk to your dental hygienist.


Reference: pid=S180683242014000100217&script=sci_arttext&tlng=pt

Share the Love – 2 for 1 Teeth Whitening for Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day       Share the Love with your partner, a friend, a family member ….anyone you choose and enjoy 2 teeth whitening sessions for the price of one. Surprise someone you love with this gift. We can usually book 2 people together at the same time!

Not happy with your pearly whites? Book a 15 min teeth whitening session before Feb 14th for 2 people for $75. This product used will be Rev whitening gel – non light activated, which results in brightening your smile.

You can read more about teeth whitening & teeth whitening options here at our clinic

Call 403-457-2044  text 587-703-9178  or email to book appointments today.

*This offer expires Feb 14th*





Doom & gloom in the economy and I can’t afford a dental cleaning…


It’s pretty hard not to be impacted by daily media reminders of the economic downturn in Calgary, but we are choosing to maintain a positive attitude here at Lifetime Smiles Dental Hygiene Clinic and assist our returning patients as well as new ones in achieving that very necessary “dental cleaning”. In fact, we feel we have a great value to offer to our patients.

One of the first and most important ways to save dental dollars right now is to PREVENT the need for new dental treatment.

Prevent cavities,

Prevent the need for root canal treatment

Prevent gum disease

recession rebel

You get the picture – PREVENTION IS KEY in saving dental costs.  Oral health education and tips & tricks to keep your pearly whites healthy are what we provide all day, everyday here. We were reminded how valuable this information is when recently a patient stated that she learned more in one appointment here at Lifetime Smiles Dental Hygiene Clinic than she had ever experienced.


Oral hygiene tips are individualized. There are no “floss lectures”, but instead a discussion of other dental aids that might replace flossing for you. Perhaps floss picks or a Waterpik flosser may be a better plaque remover for you. Investing in an electric toothbrush often makes a significant improvement in oral health and reduces the amount of tartar removal required at your dental cleaning – thus saving you money at all future appointments.

We want to help you to keep your smile healthy & keep your dental cleaning appointments comfortable financially, so talk to us if you are feeling the cost is a barrier. Many who phone us inquiring about cost are pleasantly surprised that it’s less than they imagined. 

At Lifetime Smiles we strive to control overhead costs and run our clinic in a very efficient manner. Thanks to the support of our patients, word of mouth referrals and great management we have not increased our fees for more than 3 years, and still offer a complimentary teeth whitening session with each dental cleaning. When the economy isn’t great, individuals begin to take a closer look at where they are spending their dental dollars. This is where we feel we fit in,  a dental hygiene clinic can “fit the bill”. Our logo designer, the talented Nikki of Fetching Finn reminded us today that being an entrepreneur in some of our country’s toughest economic times is something to celebrate.Years_05_blk_sm

So, thank you for your support, no doom & gloom here,

we are forging ahead in a positive light

Happy 2016.

Parents flip the lip


I drafted this post some time ago but held back. I didn’t want parents to think I am criticizing them. I understand how many times throughout a child’s life that parenting can be difficult. I don’t want to add to any external pressure, but reading an article yesterday that “the federal government is spending a million dollars to send five chartered plane loads of Nunavut children to the hospital in Churchill, Man., for dental surgery”  pushed me into sharing this. That coupled with the fact that after discussing this with a patient of mine she stated “I wish you would tell all parents this”. This is my attempt to reach more parents.

Dental decay is preventable

Granted there is an access to care issue for these Nunavut children in this media report, but that wouldn’t explain the situation in other areas of Canada. There is no shortage of tooth decay and dental treatment being carried out in Calgary by pediatric dentists.

Parents – please flip the top lip up and have a look at your baby’s teeth. Do this often, and realize that brown spots are not normal. Flip the lip when you brush. Their tight little lips prevent thorough plaque removal. Often it is far easier to brush the side of their teeth that the tongue touches when they open wide for this task, than to brush the surface covered by their lips.

Take your child to a dental health care provider by age 1 year (6 months after 1st tooth erupts). Yes, it is a short apt if nothing is wrong, but a very important appointment. Don’t wait until there is a problem, or until age 3 years old. Do they have the appropriate number of teeth for their age? Are they tongue tied? Is their lip tied? Are you struggling to clean their teeth? Are you confused about toothpaste that is age appropriate?  This is only a fraction of what could be reviewed and discussed at this first visit. Regulated dental healthcare workers are required to attend continuing education. That phrase “when we know better, we do better” applies. Therefore, what was reviewed at your older child’s exam 9 years ago maybe be quite different than what is reviewed today with a much younger child.

Wipe off baby teeth with a washcloth or baby toothbrush

Don’t lay a baby down with any liquid other than water

Don’t let a child sip for extended times from a sippy cup – think if it this way – every time they take a sip of apple juice (even diluted) a 20 minute acid attack takes place in their mouth (approximately). If they are sipping from their sippy cup intermittently for 1.5 hours (length of a kids movie) that is almost 2 hours of acid attack

Why fruit juice?….  Why not water?

When the time is right – Have Dental Sealants Placed

I am a parent and trust me there was a period of time that it took myself and my husband to hold our son down so that we could brush his teeth –  he was about 2.5 years old when he began to hate having his teeth brushed. I mean hate it. Of course, we hated doing it just as much.   Me: ” It’s your turn”;  my husband: “No, it’s your turn”  – and usually it would take 2 of us to do it. I would put my thumb in my son’s mouth toward the back baby molars- where when he bit down it wasn’t with any amount of force. Then while my thumb was there, we could get his teeth brushed. He couldn’t close completely so I could maneuver a toothbrush around. The thumb technique sometimes allowed me to do it without help from a second adult. This nightly battle went on for about 6 months- then he was over it. He began to want to “do it himself” of course, but the deal was – he had a turn then an adult had a turn. This event takes minutes, not hours – get it done – get it over with.

Children DO NOT have the dexterity to brush and floss well enough until age 10. If you don’t believe me, have them “do it themselves”, then put disclosing liquid on their teeth. The liquid that turns plaque bacteria purple or red. You will then understand how a child who “brushes everyday” still gets cavities. They aren’t brushing well enough to remove the majority of plaque. It’s not their fault, it’s not that they aren’t trying. They don’t have the co-ordination. Sometimes once “disclosed” – it is quite evident that they are right or left handed and they have missed an entire quadrant of their mouth. Not just one or two teeth, but 5 or 6 teeth. They have spent the time in the bathroom and they report the deed is done, but an adult really needs to assist.

As far as flossing on their own? seriously? there are many adults who don’t even feel the need of this 1-2 minute activity warrants doing. A child left to their own devices may use a floss pick or floss and get a percentage of the spaces. If you actually watch them, they get one spot, skip 2 spots and so on. If this part of home care is a nightmare- consider a child’s waterpik flosser or GumChucks (much easier for a parent to use on a child).  Those tight spaces are where many cavities form.

Give some thought to yourself – did you ever have cavities? if so at what age did you have the most dental treatment? If you have never had decay – fantastic. Congratulations. You won’t have to spend time and money over your life having the dental fillings placed when you were a child drilled out and replaced several times over. Once a tooth has been cut with a dental drill and a filling placed, it is destined for future dental treatment. Fillings don’t last forever, especially the white resin fillings. All of this can be PREVENTED.

As a dental hygienist, my children are not immune to tooth decay, so I knew it had to be done, and I considered it a chore. It is important to me that I prevent what I know can be prevented. Why was I then cursed with a child who hated having his teeth brushed?

I know why. I was a dental assistant before I became a dental hygienist. I assisted a dentist with operating room privileges. We treated children under general anesthesia in a hospital. It was difficult to see such small, young children laying on an operating table – their feet going nowhere near the foot of the bed, and their eyelids taped shut during the procedure.This was not a children’s hospital – so these were adult hospital beds.  Usually, treatment involved several injections of anesthetic, pulpotomies (this is basically the equivalent to a root canal treatment but on a baby tooth), stainless steel crowns cemented to hold intact what was left of the decayed teeth, several fillings, and some extractions if the teeth were so badly decayed. As I suctioned and watched eyelids try to flutter I cast judgment on these children’s parents. In my mind I questioned to myself – “who would let their children’s teeth become decayed like this, and why don’t parents brush their kids teeth?”   This is why my son gave me grief – and of course, that is when I realized just how difficult it is to carry out dental home care at times. Often it’s not that brushing isn’t happening, it’s that it isn’t happening well. Today’s typical diet is inducive to dental decay. Let your children, or your grandchildren or any children you know be the exception.

So I sympathize with new parents, parents of multiple kids, tired and overworked parents – but please, as tired as you are, please get through this chore at night before bed – at least, and monitor what it is in contact with their teeth throughout the day. Do what you feel is in the best interest of your child.

Early Childhood Cavities – why be concerned?

Feds spend $1M to fly Inuit children south for dental surgery

Cavities on the increase for kids

Sedatives Cited in Toddler’s Dental Office Death 

Anesthesia in young kids may carry developmental risks

If you live in Calgary or Claresholm, bring your kiddies in for a no charge first visit.

If you have young children at home, or children who you feel would do better in their home environment – a mobile dental hygienist is a great option – they bring their equipment to you.

Thumb-sucking Therapy

Thumb sucking habits can leave parents at their wits end. After trying everything at home including nasty tasting coatings painted on the thumb and reward systems, parents are often told that a habit breaking appliance needs to be cemented into their child’s mouth. These dental “habit breakers” are torturous looking. This is suggested because dental professionals know the detrimental impact prolonged thumb-sucking or finger sucking can have on the developing mouth and speech.

When a thumb or finger is in the way – tongue placement is not optimal. The intensity of habits like these can shape bone (roof of the mouth often reflects this), and prevent eruption of adult teeth into the optimal position – or move teeth dramatically. When there is an open bite, as there is in this pre-treatment photo – the tongue can often be seen thrusting into the open space.

Sally Lloyd BScDH, RDH has been trained in orofacial therapy and can assist in eliminating thumb and finger sucking habits – without the need for a dental appliance cemented. Give us a call or email us with your questions. We can discuss the length of time therapy typically takes and your child’s unique needs. We are here to set your child up for success !!

before and after thumbsucking

Happy Birthday from Lifetime Smiles Dental Hygiene Clinic

Win iPad mini at Lifetime Smiles Dental Hygiene ClinicLifetime Smiles Dental Hygiene Clinic in Calgary is about to turn 3 years old.  wow – what a 3 years it has been.

People are still discovering that seeking treatment in a Dental Hygiene Clinic is an option. We have had excellent feedback from our clients. Many are happy to have found an affordable dental cleaning in Calgary, especially those who have moved from other provinces and experienced sticker shock here in booming Alberta.

Have 3 years been smooth sailing? No, not completely. Directly billing to dental insurance and dealing with dental insurance companies mistakes has been challenging and cause for revamping of billing policies, but we feel we have a great system now. Our clinic has staff, overhead costs and we provide a high quality service, so while we are very generous, we still need to be compensated.

Our goal setting out was to make it EASY. EASY for someone to have “just a dental cleaning” if that is what they want and need. We aren’t “selling” elective dental treatments, but can certainly discuss required treatment, and answer questions about dental procedures. EASY for those who work to book an appointment – thus the evening and Saturday hours. EASY for families to fit dental healthcare in their budget – so no cost Happy Visits for those up to age 3 years and a Sports mouth guard program for life. EASY for those who can’t pay the bill upfront and then get reimbursed by dental insurance by directing billing the insurance company. EASY for those with a dentist in a different geographic area  – we have taken digital x-rays and intraoral photos and sent to dentists across Canada, USA, and even Columbia for our patients.

When services are required outside our clinic we put patients in touch with programs and services that can meet their needs but still the cost of dentistry often is the barrier – this has NOT BEEN EASY. We have great working relationships with Dentists, Orthodontists as well as a range of other dental specialists. Through prevention of dental disease, and education we hope to reduce the need for costly treatments – so we continue to focus on Education and Prevention.

We have given back by participating in various dental missions world wide, as well as to the local community by participating every year in A Gift From The Heart – a day of no cost dentistry.

Very proud to say that we have NOT RAISED OUR FEES since opening 3 years ago !!!

Thank you to all our clients who spread the word and support the concept of a Dental Hygiene Clinic – because of your support all of this has been possible! THANK YOU