Dentistry Toys Make Oral Health Fun!

Do you have a budding dentist at home? A child with a fear of going to the dentist or brushing their teeth? Or maybe you just want to teach your children how to care for their teeth. Whatever your motivation, there are many tooth-themed toys and games out there you may not know about that can make oral health fun!

If you’re looking for a way to make dentistry fun for your kids, check out these cool dental-themed play products.

Thinkmax Play Dentist Set

For the future dentist, the Thinkmax Play Dentist set is available on and contains 15 pieces, including play picks, mirror, toothbrush and even a smiling set of teeth. The pieces come in a cute retro medical bag for storage, so your little one can make house calls without losing all the pieces in the process. This set would be great for kids who both want to be a dentist or are afraid to go to the dentist. Parents can demonstrate how the tools will be used on their child on a favorite toy, showing the child exactly what the dentist does, and how gentle their exam will be.

Crocodile Dentist

This clever and fun game isn’t as educational as some of the other dental toys, but it sure is fun! Kids can press the teeth of the crocodile at each turn, and one unlucky player will get their hand chomped by chance. The “teeth” don’t hurt when they bite, but they definitely can take you by surprise!

Play-Doh Drill’N Fill Set

Another fun game for the orthodontist- or dentist-in-training is the Play Doh Drill’N Fill playset. It comes with a mouth, dentist tools and plenty of Play-Doh to use for making everything from teeth to braces. We let a 4-year-old try it out and it got two thumbs up (they especially loved making green teeth)!

Playmobil Dentist with Patient

Playmobil makes a wide variety of toys for every walk of life, but the company’s dentist with patient playset is great for kids who want to play dentist without having to be the dentist themselves. In addition to the dentist and the patient, the set comes with a chair, dental tools, dental equipment and pretty much everything your child will encounter at their own dental exam.

The Toothless Monster

The Toothless Monster is an adorable plush toy that “grows” teeth each time your child loses a tooth. The toy comes with a book about why it’s important to care for your teeth. It’s not meant to replace the tooth fairy tradition, but it teaches children to help others while keeping the experience of losing teeth positive.

Whether your child loves caring for their teeth and visiting the dentist or is apprehensive about these experiences, these toys can help make oral health fun, and hopefully encourage your child to take control of their own oral hygiene.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lesko, please call 970-812-0355.

Alcohol Use Could Cause Oral Health Problems

If you are a heavy drinker of alcoholic beverages, there may be more bad news in store for you. In addition to the increased risk of liver, heart and brain problems, excessive consumption of alcohol is now being linked to an increased risk of gum disease. Gum disease, or periodontitis, occurs when the gums become infected with bacteria. But it doesn’t end there, because the bacteria responsible for periodontitis can get into your bloodstream, causing everything from heart disease to stroke to many types of cancer, including liver cancer.

The discovery linking excess drinking to periodontitis was discovered by researchers at the New York University’s Langone Health. Researchers at NYU sought to discover which “lifestyle factors” changed the oral biome. They examined many behaviors, but noted that the more alcohol participants consumed, the more their oral biome changed. Those who identified as drinking heavily had less good bacteria and more bad bacteria present in their mouths than those who drank moderately, lightly and not at all.

To conduct the study, the NYU researchers used data from 1,044 participants in a nationwide cancer study. They found that the participants who drank more than the recommended one glass of alcohol per day for women and two per day for men had less Lactobacillales, a good bacteria often found in probiotic supplements, and more bad bacteria like Bacteroidales and Neisseria associated with periodontitis.

They also noted, however, that alcohol consumption is just one factor that could be responsible for the increase in these bad bacteria and the decrease in the good Lactobacillales. Many factors could be responsible for these changes, including oral care habits, income disparities and the participant’s overall diet.

Still, the evidence does seem pretty clear, and we already know that excessive alcohol consumption can be very dangerous. So what can you do to prevent periodontitis? For starters, if you are a woman who drinks more than the recommended one glass of alcohol per day or a man who drinks more than two glasses of alcohol per day, cutting back can save your health in many important ways. Another way to help stave off gum disease is to take excellent care of your teeth and gums. That means brushing twice a day for two minutes at a time, and flossing at least once a day. Don’t scrimp on the professional cleanings, either. Visit Dr. Lesko at least once a year for your annual cleaning and exam.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lesko, please call 970-812-0355.

New Study Shows Children’s Dental Shortcomings

When it comes to kids’ oral health, many a study has been released on the impact of oral hygiene on their overall well-being – namely their ability to focus on and attend school regularly. That’s because time and time again those studies have shown that when a child is suffering from dental pain, they can’t focus during class time, and they miss more school due to untreated dental pain and dental visits to address that pain. Now, a new study has been released showing just how prevalent poor oral care in children really is, as seen from the eyes of their parents. These sobering statistics seem to echo what previous studies have shown – that we are failing at children’s oral health care in America.

The newest study was published by top oral health insurer Delta Dental’s Delta Dental Plans Association, a nonprofit organization that represents Delta’s 39 families of independent companies. The study surveyed 1,481 parents of children under the age of 12.

In the survey, parents were asked to rate their children’s oral health and hygiene. The group that scored the highest marks on this question? Children under the age of 3. That’s because parents of children this age by and large are still in control of their children’s hygiene habits and thus better able to give their children a higher score. Unfortunately, that high score wasn’t very high at all, with just 30 percent of parents rating their young child as having excellent oral health.

The results get worse as the children’s ages increase. Just 21 percent of the 3- to 5-year-old group was rated by parents as having excellent oral hygiene. The 6- to 9-year-old age group got a 17 percent excellence rating, and the 10- to 12-year-old group got just 14 percent. So, what’s going on that these numbers are so low – and, even worse, are decreasing so rapidly as children age?

The Delta Dental Plans Association attributes the decrease to parents relinquishing control of their child’s toothbrush with age. While children in the birth to age 3 group get their teeth brushed by mom or dad, as they age they are given more responsibility to care for their teeth on their own, and that’s where the problems begin.

So, what can be done to correct this problem? For starters, parents must take more time to ensure their children are brushing and flossing properly. Yes, one of the joys of raising children is watching them grow into independent people, but when it comes to oral health, if they’re not ready to take the reigns themselves, there’s no shame in helping them out a little bit longer.

As for parents who are caring for their child’s teeth themselves and still experiencing difficulties, speak to Dr. Lesko for some tips on how to help make oral hygiene easier for your child and yourself. She can be reached at 970-812-0355.

Common Tooth Idioms

Feeling cheeky? Long in the tooth? What does that even mean, and where do these weird mouth-related idioms come from? If you’re scratching your head wondering where some of these popular oral-related idioms come from, you’re not alone. Here are some of the most common mouth-themed idioms, what they mean, and in some cases even their origins!

Long in the Tooth

Long in the tooth is something we say to describe someone who is getting older. It was originally used to describe horses with receding gums, which is a natural occurrence in horses because many do not get their teeth brushed regularly. Incidentally, gum recession is also possible in adult humans for the same reason, so don’t forget to brush and floss!

Chewing the Fat

This one sounds kind of gross, but chewing the fat or chewing the rag is another way to say someone is having a long conversation or gossiping. The origins of this one are unknown, though theories include chewing on fried fat as long as possible, chewing fat to make you look like you’re talking, and even sailors chewing on salt-dried fat. According to Wikipedia, the oldest reference to chewing the fat is in the 1885 J. Brunlees Patterson book “Life in the Ranks of the British Army in India.”

Bite Your Tongue

We’ve probably all literally bitten our tongue at one point or another, so this unpleasant imagery is definitely not something we say to be nice. But bite your tongue actually means to stop talking or saying something that might be regrettable. The phrase is first attributed to William Shakespeare’s 1593 play “Henry VI,” but the phrase was around before then as “bide your tongue.”

Lying Through Your Teeth

The phrase lying through your teeth can be traced all the way back to the 1300s, but its exact origins are unknown. When someone is “lying through their teeth,” it means they are telling an outlandish or brazen lie.

Like Pulling Teeth

Though modern dentistry has made pulling teeth a lot easier (and a lot less painful!), the phrase “like pulling teeth” means having a very difficult time getting someone to do something. The phrase has been around since the 1830s, or possibly longer, though its exact origins are unknown.

If you’ve been “waiting til the cows come home” to schedule your exam with Dr. Lesko, please call 970-812-0355.

The Surfaces of the Teeth

There may be two sides to every story, but your teeth? Way more sides! And all those sides on our teeth mean there are many surfaces that need care. Have you ever heard your dental team calling out strange-sounding medical terms as they check your teeth? Chances are they are calling out the surfaces of the teeth to identify the location of fillings, decay, chips and more. If you’ve ever wondered what exactly they were talking about, here’s a guide to the surfaces of your teeth.

Buccal: The word buccal literally means “cheek,” so the buccal surface of your teeth is the surface that touches the cheek, or the surface on the cheek side of your jaw. The buccal sides of the teeth are smooth with the exception of what is known as buccal pitting.

Occlusal: The occlusal surfaces are the biting surfaces of the back teeth. Misaligned occlusal surfaces give you what is known as a bad bite or, in technical terms, occlusions or malocclusions. Bad bites can cause difficulty chewing, jaw pain and uneven tooth wear. Occlusal surfaces are not smooth and have pitting and grooves along them.

Lingual: The lingual sides of your teeth are the sides that touch your tongue. Your tongue is responsible for speaking and language, hence the term “lingual.” Lingual surfaces are also smooth like their opposites, the buccal sides.

Incisal: The incisal surfaces are the biting surfaces on the front teeth. Incisors are smooth teeth. We have a total of eight incisors, including our “two front teeth.”

Mesial: Mesial surfaces are the surfaces closest to the midline of the face.

Distal: On the opposite side of the mesial surface lies the distal surface. The distal surface is the surface farthest from the face’s midline.

Proximal: The proximal surfaces are tooth surfaces that are next to each other.

Now that you have a better understanding of the names and locations of each tooth surface, you can better understand some of the dental lingo you might hear at Dr. Lesko’s office during your exam. This can help you understand not just what Dr. Lesko and her team are talking about, but it can also help you describe and locate any trouble areas on your tooth to share with the team during your exam.

Ready to make an appointment and get all those sides cleaned? Give us a call at 970-812-0355.

Enamel Heal Thyself?

One of the biggest pitfalls of teeth is that once they’re damaged, they’re damaged. Enamel can’t regrow, cavities can’t heal themselves, and you end up needing painful and costly repairs to your teeth that will most likely need to be repeated somewhere down the road. But a new treatment in the works at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California could change all that. Under the leadership of Professor Janet Moradian-Oldak, a new enamel-regeneration hydrogel could be possible in the not-too-distant future.

The USC team found a way to regenerate a compound that is similar to enamel on the surface of the teeth. Made of something called chitosan-amelogenin peptide, which the body creates naturally to grow enamel, the hydrogel has been found to grow a surface coating that could someday replace damaged enamel.

Dr. Allison Lesko of Fort Collins, Colorado, thinks this new treatment could someday make her job a lot easier.

“They say up to 75 percent of all adults have some degree of fear of going to the dentist, which keeps a lot of people from getting necessary dental treatment,” she says. “A lot of that fear is fear of getting fillings, so if we could eliminate the need for fillings, it could encourage more people to go to the dentist.”

The hydrogel could not only heal minor surface cavities, but could also repair enamel damage such as enamel wear, which causes tooth sensitivity as well as enamel chips and cracks.

“Now, if you chip a tooth, the solution is a veneer or a filling,” says Lesko, “and while those treatments aren’t necessarily painful, they’re not permanent, either.”

The average age of a filling is about 10 to 15 years, but they can last up to 20 if well cared for. Regrown enamel would hopefully eliminate the need to replace fillings in or on the teeth.

“Replacing a filling can be a costly and embarrassing experience for some people, especially if their old filling falls out or off,” Lesko says. “They’re not meant to last forever.”

Lesko for one is glad that researchers are choosing to find ways to repair teeth, but she also welcomes research on ways to strengthen fillings in the meantime.

“The researchers at USC say that this type of enamel repair is still not ready for even clinical trials,” Lesko says. “In the meantime, I hope there are ways to strengthen fillings for those who need them.”

The USC research team recently was awarded three grants to continue their research, one of which should help them fast-track their findings to the Federal Drug Administration.

Don’t Try This Dangerous DIY Trend at Home

When it comes to beauty, trends come and go. What’s on trend today may be long forgotten by tomorrow (hello, oil pulling!). But a recent trend in cosmetic oral health care is still going strong, and it could be causing a lot more harm than good. It’s the charcoal toothpaste trend, with the black mineral more commonly associated with summer grilling taking center stage in a number of new pastes and all-natural oral health products. But how safe is charcoal toothpaste, and why are dentists warning people to definitely not try the “do-it-yourself” version at home?

Dr. Allison Lesko is a dentist in Fort Collins, Colorado. She says the charcoal toothpaste trend is bad news for teeth.

“Charcoal toothpaste can scratch the tooth enamel, which is permanent damage to the teeth,” Lesko says.

According to Lesko, charcoal toothpaste grew in popularity when many users discovered their teeth appeared whiter after using the paste.

“Part of it is, I think there is a placebo effect of seeing your teeth black and then rinsing away the paste, seeing how white they look in comparison,” she says. “But charcoal toothpaste, to its credit,.does remove some surface staining.”

That being said, Lesko says that same stain-lifting effect is one you can get from any toothpaste and, yes, even that old standby, oil pulling.

“Almost anything can remove surface stains if you do it long enough,” she says.

So, what’s the problem with using charcoal toothpaste if it is doing what it claims? Not so fast, says Lesko.

“There is a difference between whitening and removing surface stains. The charcoal paste isn’t whitening the teeth, it’s cleaning them like any other, safer toothpaste would do,” she says.

The dangers of store-bought charcoal toothpaste aside, Lesko says there is an even scarier trend making its way around the country: homemade charcoal toothpaste.

“Usually homemade gets the reputation of being somehow safer, but people are using charcoal briquettes like you would use for your grill and making toothpaste with that,” she says.”It’s extremely dangerous.”

Why? For starters, charcoal briquettes contain flammable additives and chemicals that are not meant to be consumed.

“You are essentially brushing your teeth with lighter fluid,” says Lesko.

So, what can you do if you want a natural way to fight cavities and get a whiter smile? Lesko recommends looking for a natural toothpaste with the American Dental Association seal of approval, or to watch what you eat so that food-based staining is less prevalent.

“Avoid smoking and heavy consumption of dark soda, red wine and coffee, and always brush twice a day for at least two minutes at a time,” Lesko says. “That will do more to keep your teeth stain free than brushing with an abrasive or dangerous ingredient like charcoal.”

Teigen Under Fire Over Toddler Teeth

Supermodel and blogger Chrissy Teigen came under fire recently with her social media followers after posting a photo on Instagram of her 3-year-old daughter Luna’s first trip to the dentist. The so-called crime? Many followers are chiding Teigen for waiting so long to take the toddler to her first checkup – a checkup that many experts (and social media trolls) agree should occur between the ages of 6 months and 1 year. But did Teigen really mess up here? When is the right age to bring a child to the dentist, and how big of a deal is it to wait a little bit longer?

“Well, unfortunately, in this case the trolls are correct,” says Dr. Allison Lesko. “Ideally you should bring your child to their first dental exam by 6 months or whenever their first tooth erupts – whichever comes first.”

Lesko is a family dentist practicing in Fort Collins, Colorado, and says despite the general age requirements, it is up to the individual parents to decide when to bring their child to their first dental appointment.

“The sooner you can get your child in to the dentist, the better,” she says, “but many parents end up waiting until their child is walking and talking.”

Lesko says part of the reason parents should consider bringing their child so early is that it helps eliminate some of the odontophobia, or fear of the dentist, that many kids experience.

“When you know what to expect at the dentist’s office, it can be a lot less scary,” Lesko says.

Lesko says the first appointment is generally well tolerated by most children, as it is generally minimally invasive and easygoing.

“We might count the teeth and practice brushing them with the child,” she says. “It’s all very gentle and child friendly, but it helps the child feel comfortable with going to the dentist and with having someone besides a parent’s hands in their mouth.”

According to Lesko, this is very important because it can set children up for a lifetime of excellent oral health habits.

“When your child isn’t afraid to go to the dentist, it will be easier to get him and her to not only go back to the dentist, but to take care of his or her teeth during the rest of the year,” she says. “Oral health never becomes something scary or optional – it just becomes a way of life for the child, and that’s what we want.”

As for Teigen, Lesko says she wouldn’t worry too much.

“Many kids don’t end up in my chair until around that age, and they’re just fine.”

Root Canals Not as Painful as Perceived

Who’s afraid of a big, bad root canal? Apparently, a lot of people – but that fear may be unfounded. A new study by the University of Adelaide in Australia found that among 1,096 randomly selected patients who underwent a root canal, the pain of the procedure was ranked no worse than any other procedure performed at the dentist’s office. This may come as a surprise to some, as root canals have earned a reputation as being the very worst type of dental procedure one can endure.

During a root canal, a tiny hole is drilled into the affected tooth, and the pulp and nerves of the tooth are cleaned out and then replaced with a synthetic material called gutta percha. A root canal allows the patient to keep the outer structure of their natural tooth without needing a crown or extraction.

Dr. Allison Lesko of Fort Collins, Colorado, says that many of her patients are surprised to discover that root canals really aren’t as painful as they’d first believed.

“It always comes as a shock to patients that they feel surprisingly comfortable during a root canal,” she says, “and that they actually feel pretty good afterward.”

The latter makes sense too, as generally speaking most people who end up needing a root canal procedure are experiencing some degree of tooth pain in the first place.

“The procedure comes as a relief to the pain that the patient was experiencing before the root canal procedure, because the dentist has cleaned out the infection,” she says.

With over 22 million root canal procedures performed each year here in the United States, Lesko is surprised the procedure doesn’t have a better reputation, but she is hopeful that the University of Adelaide study will help change some perceptions.

“We need to destigmatize many of these procedures, so patients aren’t so afraid to take control of their oral health,” she says.

With an estimated 75 percent of all adults experiencing some degree of odontophobia (fear of the dentist), it is especially crucial to change opinions about dentistry.

“The more afraid people are to visit the dentist, the less likely they are to go to the dentist, which can make any problems with their teeth get worse,” Lesko says. “Pretty soon what was just a cavity turns into a crown or a root canal, all because the patient was afraid of a filling.”

Summer Food and Teeth

Summer is finally here, and that can mean only one thing: It’s summer food season. But not all summer treats are created equally. Some are better for us – and our teeth – than others. Here’s a list of some of the best and worst foods you may encounter this summer.


Summertime means outdoor time and outdoor time means outdoor cooking! And what’s better for outdoors cooking than barbecue? This Southern favorite may be delicious, but that sticky barbecue sauce that’s often laden with sugar is pretty dangerous for your teeth. But don’t put down those ribs just yet. Just make sure you brush well after eating, and if you do eat some of the stringier meats like ribs, be sure to floss afterward, too!

Fresh Fruit

School may be over, but fresh fruit gets an A+ for summer snacking. Summer means all the seasonal favorites are back, like watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries and more. And while in some cases these delicious fruits do have a high acid content, their health benefits outweigh their acidity. Should you decide to snack on fresh, delicious summer fruit, follow these guidelines: Drink water after consuming, and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth to allow your tooth enamel to re-harden. But do remember to brush!

Ice Cream

Ice cream is delicious and refreshing, but it can also trigger tooth sensitivity. If you find yourself wincing in pain when eating ice cream, give Dr. Lesko’s office a call for a checkup. There are many possible reasons for sensitive teeth, and some of them are relatively easy to correct. Sensitivity aside, remember that ice cream is usually full of sugar and carbohydrates – two things that cavity-causing bacteria love to feast on. So, make sure that when you indulge in that cone of black raspberry this summer to brush your teeth afterward. Should you add any sticky or sweet toppings or choose a flavor with candy mixed in, remember it’s that much more important to floss afterward, too.

Carnival Foods

Summer is carnival season, which means it’s time for those once-a-year epic carnival foods like cotton candy, candy apples and caramel corn. All delicious, and all terrible for your teeth. We’ll let these slide since they are a once-a-year treat, but make sure you brush really well when you get home. If you do want to opt for healthier fair-fare, swap out the sticky sweets for kettle corn, corn on the cob or maybe even one of those giant turkey legs. Ultimately, though, one bag of cotton candy won’t wreck your smile, so go to the carnival, the barbecue, the pool or the beach and have a great summer, no matter what you eat!

Want to give your smile a summer checkup? Give us a call at 970-812-0355.