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 Amazon.com 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.


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.”


Tooth Fairy Index Shows Dropping Tooth Payouts

Since the early 1900s, many American children have participated in a fun tradition that combines a childhood rite of passage with a bit of fun and mystery. That tradition is the tooth fairy, and chances are, whether you’re a parent or a child, you’ve at least heard of her.

The earliest known mention of the tooth fairy tradition dates back to the 1920s in a play called “The Tooth Fairy,” though other countries and cultures have their own versions of tooth fairies that date further back. For example, children in France leave their teeth for a mouse they call La Petite Souris. In Spain, children leave their teeth for Ratoncito Perez, a rat or mouse, depending on who you ask.

What all these traditions have in common – besides the taking away of baby teeth in the night – is that each figure leaves behind a prize in the form of a trinket or money. Getting paid for body parts you don’t need anymore? Not a bad deal if you think about it! But recently, the tooth fairy has been making headlines about just what she’s leaving behind when she takes those precious baby teeth away.

“Apparently, the going rate for baby teeth is dropping,” says Dr. Allison Lesko, a dentist from Fort Collins, Colorado.

She’s not wrong. According to a recent Delta Dental survey, the average payout for a baby tooth dropped 43 cents here in the United States in 2018. Using an admittedly adorable chart called the “Tooth Fairy Index,” Delta Dental provides average rates for tooth payouts around the globe.

For instance, children receive an average of 3.26 euros per tooth in Ireland, and $4.88 CAD in Canada. Here in the United States, the annual average is now just $3.70. So why the drop?

“I’d say budgets are tight, but I think part of it is parents rewarding kids with different types of prizes than monetary,” says Lesko. “I’ve heard some parents offer extended screen time or later bedtimes, which don’t cost anything but are a big deal to kids.”

The survey also found that children’s first teeth netted a higher payout than subsequent lost teeth, at an average of $4.96, and the rates per tooth vary depending on where in the United States the child resides.

“Here in the western part of the country, we average a little bit higher per tooth at $4.91,” Lesko says. “But in the Southern United States the average is only $3.91, and the Northeast is around $3.75 per tooth.”


Developmental Disabilities Complicate Oral Hygiene

Properly maintaining a child’s oral hygiene can be a challenge for any parent, but for a parent of a child with a developmental disability, this challenge can be even greater, especially when that child refuses to see a dentist. But now, a cry from parents of children with developmental disabilities is gaining steam, and it could effect change in the dental community.

“The first problem many parents face is even getting their developmentally disabled child to care for their teeth at home,” says Dr. Allison Lesko, a dentist from Fort Collins, Colorado. “Getting a child to feel comfortable with a routine or to sit still long enough to brush and floss teeth is a tall order. And some may even need these steps performed for them if they are unwilling or unable.”

As big a problem as this is for younger children, it can become an even bigger problem as the child in question ages.

“At some point, the resistant child will become a teen and an adult, and will hopefully be responsible for managing their own hygiene, but this may not always be possible,” Lesko says.

When this happens, it opens a veritable Pandora’s Box of other dental issues.

“Those teeth they won’t brush develop cavities. They develop periodontitis. It goes from being a maintenance issue to something in dire need of treatment, but that becomes even harder than just getting them to brush their teeth,” says Lesko.

Worse yet, many families cannot afford to provide the kind of dental care needed for their developmentally disabled child, no matter their age.

“Often, sedation dentistry is the best option for treating these cases, but many dental insurance plans won’t cover the sedation portion of the procedure,” says Lesko. “So parents are forced to pay for that out of pocket.”

Even with reduced rates and payment plans, many parents still can’t swing the added expense.

“It can be too high of a cost for an annual or bi-annual cleaning,” says Lesko, “so many parents just skip the dental visits altogether.”

So, what’s a parent – or a patient – to do in this situation?

“All we can do right now is lobby the insurance industry for better coverage for these types of situations,” says Lesko. “Or speak to your family dentist about your options. Preventative care – even expensive preventative care – still saves money in the long run over fixing a problem that has gotten out of hand.”


Tooth Stem Cells Could Someday Save Lives

Parents who think they missed the boat by not banking their baby’s cord blood may soon have another chance to save precious stem cells that may benefit their children in the future. A new report from the United States National Center for Biotechnology Information has found that baby teeth can be saved and stored for use in a wide range of medical treatments, from fighting cancer to re-growing bones, treating diabetes and repairing eyesight.

“It’s still a new technology and it’s not available to consumers yet, but it’s coming,” says Fort Collins, Colorado, dentist Dr. Allison Lesko. “And when it does, it will be a game changer.”

The study found that teeth up to 10 years old could be used to harvest stem cells, which can be used to replicate any cell in the human body.

“So just because the stem cells are harvested from a tooth doesn’t mean they have to be used to replace a tooth,” says Lesko. “They will be able to replicate bones, tissue and organs from all around the human body.”

Currently, stem cells can be harvested from umbilical cord blood, bone marrow and even body fat, but because baby teeth contain bone marrow, they too are a source of stem cells.

“Bone marrow can be painful and difficult to extract, especially from a child,” says Lesko. “Extracting it from teeth will be a painless way to get the same benefits.”

As for the time-sensitive nature of extracting stem cells from cord blood, that complication isn’t as big of an issue with tooth marrow.

“The best part of doing it this way is that you don’t need to bank the teeth by a specific time,” says Lesko. “The stem cells can be harvested and banked as they fall out, naturally as your child grows – but only up to about age 10.”

But don’t just throw the teeth under the pillow and wait for the tooth fairy to take them.

“This type of banking will require some advanced planning,” says Lesko. “Most likely you will need to have a preservation kit on hand to keep the tooth from drying out before the stem cells can be extracted.”


Navigating Allergies at the Dentist

For parents of children with food allergies, navigating life can be a major challenge. Having to read labels and package inserts for products most of us take for granted can be stressful, frustrating and downright scary. Still, many parents must go out of their way to educate themselves about what ingredients are in these products and how they affect their child – something that is made even more difficult when you add in everyday stressors like work and family. Even the most vigilant parents can miss things. That’s what happened when one family missed the dairy-based ingredient added to their severely milk-allergic daughter’s prescription toothpaste, an omission any parent could relate to.

The family, from California, received a prescription for a special fluoride toothpaste for their daughter. Unfortunately, their 11-year-old had a severe milk allergy, a condition the family was well versed in. They considered the problem well managed, but in a move that would later prove fatal, they did not check the ingredients on the new toothpaste. Unfortunately, their young daughter had an immediate reaction at first use and died at the hospital later that night.

“It’s a devastating loss but one we don’t encounter often,” says Dr. Allison Lesko, a dentist from Fort Collins, Colorado, who did not treat the family.

Lesko says that while the accident is a rare occurrence, there are safeguards parents can take to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

“First, let your dentist know what allergies your child has, either on your medical intake forms or as a verbal reminder at any treatment,” says Lesko.

Another sound practice that the young girl’s family got right?

“Stay prepared,” says Lesko. “The parents in this case had an epi-pen and inhaler on hand for emergencies. They did the right thing by administering these medications to try and save their daughter.”

Keep these emergency products in close proximity to a child with life-threatening allergies at all times, and make sure the products have not expired between uses.

“Familiarize yourself with rescue product expiration dates and make sure to replace them before they expire,” says Lesko. “Add it to your calendar or set a reminder on your smartwatch or phone.”

Last, do what the child’s family had grown accustomed to doing over years of managing their daughter’s allergy.

“Learn the names of ingredients to rule out possible contamination,” says Lesko. “In the case of this young woman, her toothpaste contained Recaldent, a milk-based protein.”

Both Lesko and the victim’s family encourage parents to ask questions of any practitioner who is prescribing a medication.

“You never know what could be in a product – and you should never be afraid to ask. Even if your practitioner doesn’t know, we can find out for you,” says Lesko.


Infant Oral Hygiene

Whether you’re a first-time parent or consider yourself an old pro, it’s not uncommon to have questions about your infant’s oral health routine. From when to start to how to get started, the idea of caring for baby’s teeth can be overwhelming to say the least. But there’s no need to panic, mom and dad! You’ve got this. Here’s your primer for infant oral health care.

When to Start

Many people believe that the best time to start caring for their child’s teeth is when the first tooth erupts. This makes a lot of sense, but believe it or not you can actually start caring for baby’s teeth a lot sooner – before he or she even has teeth! By simply swabbing the gums with a gauze-covered finger and fluoride-free toothpaste twice a day, you are setting your baby up for a lifetime of good oral hygiene. Why start before teeth appear? There are two major reasons. First, it cleans the gums, keeping them free of bacteria and germs. Second, it gets your baby used to the feeling of having his or her teeth cleaned, so that when the first tooth does appear, your baby will let you clean it without putting up a fight.

What to Use

Before your child is old enough to spit out toothpaste, you should use fluoride-free paste to keep teeth and gums clean. Make sure you are either supplementing this with fluoridated water or receiving fluoride tablets or drops from your dentist. For infants with no teeth, you can gently swab gums with a piece of gauze or rubber gloves. Once baby’s first tooth appears, an infant toothbrush can be used.

When to See the Dentist

Another common question we hear is when babies should have their first dentist appointment. There is no set age for bringing an infant to the dentist. We recommend you bring him or her in for a first dental exam within six months of the first tooth erupting.

What Happens at Baby’s First Dental Exam?

Most first dental visits will be very brief. Baby’s teeth will be examined and counted, and good oral hygiene practices will be reviewed with the parents. Parents will be directed to schedule their next appointment within six to 12 months of the first, to keep baby comfortable with coming to the dentist.

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


What It Feels Like to Lose That First Tooth

Have you ever tried to remember what it was like when you lost your first tooth? Unless you have an incredible memory, most of us can’t recall how we felt when a tooth first got wiggly and then fell out. Our parents might remember, but most likely they only recall the milestone if we had a particularly good – or particularly bad – reaction to it. This thought led us to the question: Does losing a tooth for the first time scare most kids?

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Tooth-Friendly Stocking Stuffer Ideas

It’s that magical time of the year again when the stockings are hung by the chimney and often filled with chocolate and candy. Just like at Halloween, we definitely think candy and chocolate are perfectly OK in moderation! What’s a holiday without some treats and indulgences? But, to keep teeth safe and healthy, try to minimize candy, chocolates and sweets and try these other ideas to fill up the bulk of your children’s stockings this year and avoid the sugar rush.

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