Our Blog

Sippy Cups

February 21st, 2024

What a milestone! The transition from bottle to sippy cup is one of baby’s first steps toward toddler independence. And like all first journeys, some helpful guideposts come in handy. That’s why Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk and our team have several recommendations to help you navigate this transition, making sure your baby’s dental health is protected along the way.

Choosing a Sippy Cup

Sippy cups are often a parent’s first choice for this big step in baby’s development. While sippy cups offer a variety of child-safe materials, lively colors, and comfortable handle options, the feature of interest from a dental perspective is lid design.

Sippy cups curb spills because their lids don’t allow liquids to flow out freely, ensuring that drinks make it into baby’s mouth instead of onto furniture or floor. Cup lids might incorporate:

  • Built-in straws
  • A drinking edge around the rim of the cup which seals when your child isn’t drinking
  • Soft spouts
  • Hard spouts
  • Spouts with valves to prevent liquids from leaking out. (Spouts with valves work like a nipple, which means baby is sucking instead of sipping.)

Which design is best? For short periods, any of these designs can work for you. Over long periods, spouted cups could have the same effects as prolonged thumb-sucking and pacifier use, potentially affecting a child’s tongue positioning, tooth alignment, bite, and speech development. Your dentist will be able to suggest which cups are best for your child’s dental health both short and long term.

What to Put in a Sippy Cup

Once your baby has begun drinking from a cup, it should only hold tooth-friendly drinks.

  • Pediatricians generally recommend breast milk and/or formula until your child is 12 months old. You can switch to regular milk (or a healthy milk alternative) once your child is a year old with your doctor’s okay.
  • Water can be introduced when your pediatrician thinks your child is ready, usually around the age of six months.
  • Because even natural fruit juices have lots of sugar, dentists and pediatricians suggest giving your baby small amounts only—or feed your child fruit instead!
  • Skip the sugared drinks, sports drinks, caffeinated drinks, and sodas. They aren’t healthy for little bodies or little teeth.

Help Prevent Tooth Decay

Just like adults, babies can suffer tooth decay, too—and for the same reasons. The bacteria in plaque use the sugars found in our diets to create acids, and acids erode tooth enamel.

When a toddler totes a sippy cup around all day, even filled with healthy drinks, those baby teeth are constantly exposed to the natural sugars found in breast milk, formula, and, for older children, milk. Drinks with more or added sugars, such as juices or sweetened drinks, cause more damage to tooth enamel. Use a sippy cup wisely:

  • Offer the cup with meals and snacks, when increased saliva production can help wash away sugars and neutralize the acids which cause cavities.
  • Offer water between meals.
  • Don’t let your baby take a sippy cup to bed. Some spill-proof cups are designed to be sucked like bottles, and, like bottles, sugary liquids can pool in babies’ mouths as they sleep.
  • Get into a tooth-cleaning routine as soon as your child’s teeth start to arrive.

And, while we’re talking about healthy teeth, please don’t let your child toddle around with a sippy cup. A fall while drinking can injure a baby’s mouth and teeth.

Partner with Your Child’s Dentist

The journey from baby to toddler can seem overwhelming sometimes for both you and your child, but you have expert help available! It's a good idea to make a first dental appointment at our Middleton, WI office sometime between the appearance of the first baby tooth and your child’s first birthday. This initial visit is an opportunity for Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk to:

  • Check your child’s overall dental health and development.
  • Look for signs of early decay.
  • Talk about proactive dental care, including how and when to clean your child’s teeth.
  • Answer questions about how you can support your child’s dental health, including the advantages and disadvantages of sippy cups.

Used properly, sippy cups can be a helpful transition on your child’s journey from bottle to cup, and from baby-who-relies-on-you-for-everything to take-charge-toddler. Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk and our team are an ideal guide as you and your child chart this path together.

Is There an Act Three for Our Teeth?

February 21st, 2024

Act One: Those 20 adorable baby teeth which begin arriving when you’re about six months old and are probably gone by the time you’re twelve.

Act Two: The 32 (if you have all your wisdom teeth!) adult teeth which start showing up around the age of six, and need to last the rest of your lifetime. Unless there’s an . . .

Act Three: Where science has discovered a way to repair damaged teeth or create replacements for lost teeth that would look and function just like our original teeth.

Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it?

In biological terms, of course, we’re not there yet. But teams of scientists around the world have been working toward just this goal—the ability to repair a tooth with its own biological material or even grow a new tooth when an adult tooth is seriously damaged or lost.

Because the pulp—the living tissue inside each tooth—contains dental stem cells, some researchers are studying whether these cells can be used to regenerate the living pulp inside a damaged tooth. Even more exciting, there’s research being done into the possibility of using these stem cells to rebuild an entire tooth—pulp, dentin, and hard enamel exterior. Because the supply of usable dental stem calls is quite small, and process of guiding these cells to create all the varied parts of the tooth is quite complex, this research is in its early stages.

In other studies, scientists have focused on tooth regeneration by studying the teeth of other species. Mice, for example, have front teeth with open roots. This allows these teeth to keep growing up as they wear down, because stem cells inside mouse gums are always working to create new tissue. Even though our teeth are not exactly comparable (no open roots in human teeth!), finding out just how this tissue regeneration works in mice and other animals might help find an answer for human tooth regeneration.

Right now, these scientific goals are just that—goals for a future day. But in the meantime, your quality of life doesn’t need to suffer when you lose an adult tooth. You can enjoy a third act right now with dental implants.

Cosmetic concerns aren’t the only reasons why you want your complete smile restored in the event of a lost tooth. A missing tooth can lead to many unpleasant consequences:

  • Speaking and eating can become more difficult.
  • Lack of stimulation from biting and chewing can cause the bone beneath the lost tooth to shrink.
  • Other teeth can shift to fill the gap left behind, which can affect tooth, bite, and jaw alignment.
  • Loss of teeth can lead to loss of confidence.

Unlike dentures or bridges, dental implants are designed to function just like your natural teeth.

The post, or base, of each implant fuses with the bone in your jaw, acting as a “root” for the implant. Once the post has fused with the bone around it, a crown designed to match your other teeth in shape and color is secured to the post. You can eat, speak, brush, floss, keep your bone healthy, and smile confidently just as you did before.

Will biological replacements be ready for your third act in the near future? Probably not. But that’s not to say this will never be possible! In the meantime, take care of your teeth with daily brushing and flossing, eat a dental-healthy diet, and visiting our Middleton, WI office as recommended.

You do your best to keep your teeth intact and in place—but if you lose one through trauma or decay, talk to Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk about an implant. Because in any stage of life, the most important result is the happy ending a healthy and confident smile brings you!

What’s in Your Backpack?

February 15th, 2024

Hiking is a great way to appreciate the beauty of nature, to get away from the stresses of daily life, and, of course, to challenge yourself physically. While you’re packing away your sunscreen and your first aid kit, do your body another favor—take a minute to include some lightweight, dental-friendly items.

  • Snacks

When you’re exerting yourself, snacks that provide quick energy on the go are a must. Granola, trail mix, energy bars, candy, dried fruit—these are the foods we think of as trail food, and we generally get that quick energy boost from the sugars and starches they contain. As it happens, Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk and our team strongly recommend you pick snack options other than sugary and starchy foods. Why? Because many sugars and starches provide oral bacteria the food they need to produce acids. These acids weaken enamel and damage our teeth. And these common trail foods often have the added “bonus” of sticking to the teeth, leaving acids even more opportunity to attack. Don’t give up the energy boost you need for a safe hike, but do yourself and your teeth a favor and look for the healthiest granola, energy bars, and gorp out there.

Other suggestions for trail treats that are also a treat for teeth? If you need a chocolate pick-me-up, try dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has more caffeine that milk chocolate and less sugar. (It has other health benefits as well that you might want to look up after your hike.) If you like nuts and seeds, take softer nuts, or sliced nuts—a good source of energy and not likely to provide as much stress on your teeth when you’re in the field. (Shell them beforehand—don’t ever use your teeth as a nutcracker!) Similarly, if you take seeds, leave the shells at home. If you like crackers, try whole grains. Looking for protein? How about a tuna pouch instead of chewy beef jerky?

  • Hydrate

Water is always the go-to beverage. Pre-hydrate even before setting out, and have plenty on hand for your trek. Many hiking sources suggest two cups of fluids per hour of activity. (And in hot or humid weather or at high altitudes, you could need even more.) There are actually hiking water calculators online, which can give you a good estimate on how much you’ll need for your trip, taking into account your age, weight, level of activity, and other factors. Because water can get heavy, plan a lengthy hike around the availability of fountains or other clean water sources if necessary.

What if you feel the need for more than water? If you are getting a good workout, you’re probably losing electrolytes. Generally, sports drinks aren’t on the dental menu. They tend to be loaded with sugar and carbs—good for energy, bad for teeth. Sports drinks can be as acidic and hard on your enamel as sodas. But if you need those electrolytes on a long hike, don’t feel guilty. There are many options—choose the healthiest one for you and your workout level.

  • Be prepared!

While you are probably already packing a mini-first aid kit for long hikes, think about a lightweight dental emergency kit as well. These are readily available online and in outdoors stores, and usually contain supplies like cotton balls, dental floss, oral pain relievers, even temporary fillings, in a lightweight bag.

And once your hike is done? Rehydrate, and don’t forget to treat your teeth to a good brushing and flossing when you get home.

Got all that? Great! Now, go take a hike!

Socket Preservation

February 15th, 2024

Dental implants are a marvel! They look just like your natural teeth, and, even better, they function just like your natural teeth. So, when you’re planning on a dental implant after an extraction, you want to make sure that your implant has the best chance of success—and we do, too. That’s why we might recommend a socket preservation procedure, where socket grafting takes place immediately after your extraction.

What is a socket graft, and what does it “preserve”? Let’s take a closer look.

Socket Preservation—A Logical Choice After Extraction

You’ve decided on a dental implant for some excellent reasons.

  • A missing tooth can change the appearance of your smile.
  • Your remaining teeth might shift to fill the empty space, causing alignment and bite problems.
  • A lost tooth affects the amount, shape, and health of the bone surrounding your teeth.

No one wants to lose a tooth, but sometimes, due to injury or decay, an extraction is the only choice for your oral health. After your tooth is extracted, if the socket bone holding the tooth is perfectly healthy and the extraction is a simple one, we might be able to place an implant post in the socket right away.

But often, bone needs time to heal before placing an implant post, and you risk losing the bone size and density you need to make a future implant possible. How can you lose bone? That’s an unfortunate consequence of losing teeth. Teeth are important not just because they let us eat comfortably—they also help maintain bone health.

Without the stimulation of biting and chewing, the bone beneath the teeth begins a process called resorption. As older cells are absorbed back into the body, new bone cells aren’t produced as quickly to replace them. The alveolar bone, the thick ridge of the jaw which holds our sockets, shrinks in size. As the bone gets smaller, gum tissue shrinks around it, causing a sunken spot where your tooth used to be.

For a dental implant to anchor successfully in the jawbone, you need healthy bone that is high enough, wide enough, and dense enough to hold the implant post securely as it fuses with the bone.

A socket graft at the time of extraction provides two important benefits: grafting material fills the empty socket immediately, preserving the bone and gum area around it, and the graft material acts as scaffolding for new bone growth, creating a firm, dense foundation for your implant.

Grafting materials are gradually and safely absorbed as your new, healthy bone tissue replaces them. The result, after several months of healing, is an alveolar ridge with normal height and width and with the density needed to anchor an implant successfully.

The Grafting Procedure

Grafting material comes in different forms, including allografts (made from donor bone), synthetic grafts (made from synthetic materials which function like bone tissue), and autografts (bone taken from your own body). Growth factors may also be included in the grafting material to encourage new cell growth. Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk will recommend the type of graft which will work best for you.

A socket preservation procedure will frequently involve the following steps:

  • Local anesthesia to numb the area before your extraction. You might choose sedation options as well, which we’re happy to discuss with you in advance.
  • Careful cleaning of the site after the tooth is extracted.
  • Filling the empty socket with bone grafting material.
  • Placing a barrier or membrane over the graft to protect it as it heals.
  • Suturing the surrounding gum tissue.

Aftercare Treatment

Aftercare treatment for a socket graft is a lot like the treatment for a tooth extraction. You’ll need to be careful around the graft area for several days as it heals, and we’ll give you specific instructions for your recovery. Normally, these may include:

  • Don’t disturb or touch the area. Even pulling on lips or mouth to look at the site can put stress on your sutures.
  • Immediately after the procedure, we can give you suggestions for reducing swelling and managing any pain you might be feeling.
  • We’ll let you know when and how to rinse your mouth clean and when you can return to brushing. And no spitting!
  • Eat carefully. We might recommend a liquid diet for a few days before transitioning to bland and cool soft foods. We’ll let you know the best diet for the period after your surgery. Don’t use a straw for your liquid diet, because suction can interfere with the wound.
  • Treat yourself carefully for a few days by avoiding strenuous activities, including workouts.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking interferes with the healing process, and the suction involved does your graft no favors either.
  • Visit our Middleton, WI office for follow up appointments as recommended. We’ll monitor your healing, and give you a timeline for your future implant.

Preserving your socket now instead of repairing it later has many advantages. Immediate placement of a graft protects bone size and density, eliminates the need for a potential bone grafting procedure in the future, and makes it possible for you to enjoy the natural look and feel of a dental implant as soon as possible. If you have an extraction scheduled, let’s discuss why socket preservation might be your best path to an efficient, timely, and successful dental implant.

1001 N Gammon Rd #2
Middleton, WI 53562
(608) 836-5600