Final Back-to-School Reminders

We talked about tooth care tips for the kids as they head back to school, we recommended some good books to encourage dental and vision health, and now that the kids are officially back in school or maybe only days away, we’ve got a few more tips to share.

Eye exams are often skipped

A new survey found that over 50% of parents in the U.S. don’t take their kids for a comprehensive eye exam before going back to school. In the same survey, the majority of respondents agreed that eye exams are important for their kids. So what is preventing parents from taking their kids to the eye doctor? Some might think that vision screenings, sometimes offered at school, are adequate. But vision screenings and eye exams are different and screenings can miss the majority of vision problems.

When to take your child for an eye exam

There can be warning signs your child has a vision problem, student reading with glassesbut even without symptoms or if your child has a low risk of vision problems, the American Optometric Association recommends children receive an eye exam at 6 months of age, 3 years of age, 5 years of age (before first grade), and then every two years or as suggested by your doctor. If your child is at risk, the frequency changes to every year or as recommended. Look for a list of factors that place a child at risk for vision impairment here.

Vision problems can affect learning

Sometimes with kids, vision problems can be misdiagnosed or undetected. There is a link between vision and learning, so making sure they can read the blackboard, their books and their laptops is important. About 80% of learning is through a child’s vision and 60% of students who are labeled as problem learners have an undiagnosed vision problem. As these numbers illustrate, adding eye exams on your priority list will benefit your child and their learning.

Back-to-school gear for athletes

Back to school also means school sports. And when we think of sports, we think of mouth and eye protection. Did you have protective eye gear and mouth guards on the back-to-school list?

Mouthguards can provide ample protection from sports-related injuries to the teeth, mouth, jaws and surrounding areas. They help to prevent any kind of dislocation of jaw joints and protect the teeth from being knocked out. Read more to learn about different kinds of mouth guards and how to care for them.

According to an article on, the amount of sports-related eye injuries reported in emergency rooms are over 40,000 every year. But most of these injuries are preventable with protective eyewear. With sports, we may think of flying objects as the hazard, but eye injuries can be a result of an elbow or finger in a close contact sport. Suit up the kids with all their sports gear and include mouthguards and protective eye wear.

Did you get their eyes checked?

You take your children to the doctor and dentist, now add your vision provider to that list. Back to school can be a busy time with all the preparation and anticipation. But whether this time of year is best for your family, or any other time during the year, make their vision health a part of your schedule. Protect your active kid with mouth guards and eye shields. And we wish you all a happy back-to-school season!


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Dental and vision health info for your four-legged friends on National Dog Day

Our dogs are a frequent topic here in the office.

We share laughs, lessons, and, of course, love for these amazing creatures. Because we adore them so much, we want our dogs to live happy and healthy lives. And we’ve come to learn that their oral health can have a lot to do with that. There are also things we can do to protect their eyes.

For National Dog Day, we’re going to celebrate our dogs by focusing on our favorite topics of dental and vision health and include our dogs!

Eye care for your dog

I had a cocker spaniel that had cataracts in her old age. Some breeds are more susceptible than others. Like humans, there are a number of causes and the condition results in diminished vision or blindness. Dogs can also get glaucoma, like humans.

My dog was also vulnerable to eye infections. It’s recommended if your dog has a lot of yucky stuff in the corner of her eyes, wipe it off. When cleaning them out, be careful to wipe away from the eye so you don’t hurt or scratch the eye. I cleaned out my dog’s eyes just about every day. It’s important to keep on top of it, especially if it’s excessive. If the crust and discharge build up, the more likely it will cause an eye infection.

Other ways to protect your dog’s eyes include keeping their hair cut around the eyes so hair doesn’t scratch or irritate them. And though it’s always fun to see a dog enjoy the open window breeze while riding in the car, it could cause problems if something blows into their eyes. For any serious eye conditions, consult your veterinarian.

Oral health problems for dogs

Like humans, dogs can have similar dental problems like gingivitis and periodontal disease. It’s imperative to keep teeth and gums strong and healthy because dental issues can lead to other health problems. Another similarity, early detection and treatment can be critical. We get our teeth checked twice a year; with your dog’s annual visit to the vet, teeth and gums will (or should) be checked. You can monitor your dog’s teeth between these visits by looking for plaque buildup and swollen gums.

How to keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy

Brushing your dog’s teeth might seem impossible, but with some effort, it can pay off in the long run. Struggling with the task of keeping our dog’s teeth clean is a topic I’ve discussed with my co-workers. And I’ll admit, none of us have taken on the challenge of brushing. Some of us have adopted older dogs, so we’ve had to take our dogs to the vet for a cleaning which involves anesthesia. I recently rescued a younger dog, so it’s possible to start a routine of brushing to prevent the need for a dental procedure in the future. It might take some getting used to, for me and my dog, but with time, patience and training, it could turn into a habit. According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is the most effective way to keep them healthy and may reduce or even eliminate the need for a dental cleaning at the vet.

If you decide to take on the challenge of brushing your dog’s teeth, consult with your vet. There is special toothpaste for dogs because human toothpaste is toxic for them. There are also specially designed toothbrushes. But if you can’t manage brushing your dog’s teeth, there are other things you can do.

Chew toys – I’m lucky that my dog enjoys chewing on toys and sticks. When I see her chewing on her favorite rubber toy, I’m thankful it could be helping her teeth. Some toys are designed to strengthen gums and teeth. When a dog chews or gnaws on a toy, it can scrape off buildup on your dog’s teeth.

Dental treats – There are lots of options out there. My vet sells a great brand of dental chews. They’re similar to raw hides, but they have special ingredients that fight and breakdown the plaque on teeth. Dental treats can also help with freshening breath, but be aware, severe bad breath can be a sign of dental problems.

Tooth wipes – A great option and alternative to brushing, dog tooth wipes are used to rub against the teeth and remove plaque.

Dry food – I used to think of soft food as a special treat for dogs, but it’s not good for their teeth. Soft food can stick to their teeth, create buildup and lead to tooth decay.

Happy to celebrate

National Dog Day celebrates all dogs and encourages rescue and adoption from shelters. The day brings attention to the many roles dogs have in our lives. We’re very happy to celebrate this day and message with you all.

Always consult with your veterinarian about what is best for your dog.

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Oral and Vision Health Concerns for Older Adults

As you age, your dental and vision health are just as important as was when you were a kid. So while the healthy routines are the same – brushing twice a day, flossing, visiting your eye doctor and dentist, and eating healthy foods – there are some specific concerns we can focus on to make sure your smile and vision stay strong.

Vision changes in adults

You may notice some changes in your vision as you age. For example, your eyes may take longer to focus and adjusting to light and dark may be more difficult. The health of your eyes can depend on nutrition, sun exposure, family history and other factors, but their functions can also worsen because of age. You can take a number of steps to keep your eyes healthy, and visiting an eye care provider will help determine your vision acuity.

Maintain good oral health routines

You already brush twice a day, for two to three minutes with fluoride toothpaste. Now as you get older, be aware that the areas by your old fillings and the parts of your teeth exposed by receding gums are more susceptible to decay. Your dentist can watch for any signs of tooth decay in these areas. from the American Dental Association recommends, for adults over 60, using an electric toothbrush or a toothbrush with a wider handle, especially if you have limited movement or arthritis.

Keep flossing

Flossing is as important as ever since most adults show signs of gum disease. Flossing can remove the plaque between your teeth and below your gum line to help prevent gum disease. Sometimes we forget about the health of our gums, but gum disease can lead to tooth loss in adults.

Choose healthy

Foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein, senior citizen eye carezeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids are good for vision health, according to research by the National Eye Institute and others. Foods like citrus fruit, nuts, leafy green vegetables, just to name a few, can lower your risk for some eye diseases and conditions.

Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D can help keep your teeth and bones healthy and reduce the risk of tooth loss. Apples, carrots, celery and other fruits and raw vegetables can help to remove plaque from your teeth, but if you’re experiencing tooth pain, it may deter you from eating healthy foods. Visit your dentist right away if you’re having pain and it’s affecting your ability to eat.

Oral and vision health is a part of your overall health, so eating foods rich in antioxidants and nutrients can improve your health in many ways.

Your provider can notice potential problems

It’s important to continue to visit your vision care provider every year or every two years. For older adults, during your comprehensive eye exam, they will check for eye diseases that can be associated with getting older like age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, cataract and others.

Your dental visits twice a year are just as important to maintain as you age. Dental x-rays can detect the early signs of oral health problems like root decay. Additionally, chronic diseases like diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease can show symptoms in your mouth, research suggests. Your dentist can be the first to notice problems.

Your medications can affect your oral health

Some of us may face health issues that require medication, and your medications can have negative effects on your oral health. One of the most common side effects for older adults is dry mouth. This condition deprives the mouth of saliva, which plays a critical role in preventing tooth decay. To help counter this, drink plenty of water and limit caffeine and alcohol. It’s important to keep dentists up-to-date on medications so they can monitor your oral health for side effects. Talk with your doctor and dentist for guidance.

Keep them strong

While some of these recommendations are universal and can apply to all ages, as you age, there can be specialized concerns for your eyes and mouth. Take care of your eyes, teeth and gums so they stay strong and healthy throughout your life.

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Watching the Eclipse? Here’s How to Protect Your Vision

After much anticipation, the solar eclipse is just days away! We want you and your family to enjoy this special event while also being safe and protecting your eyes.

There is a lot of information out there about the eclipse, viewing the eclipse and other related information. As your vision benefits provider, we’re going to focus on a few solar eclipse facts and tips to make sure you keep your eyes protected.

Some of us are lucky to be in the direct path for total eclipse viewing. This is also called the path of totality. Depending on your location, your viewing instructions differ. See more information below.

Facts about viewing a solar eclipse

Total eclipse – If you’re in the path of totality, you will be able to see a total eclipse, when the moon completely blocks the sun, for about two to three minutes.

Eclipse blindness – Looking at the solar eclipse without eye protection can cause retinal burns, also called solar retinopathy or “eclipse blindness.”

Damage – If you expose your eyes to the sun without protection, it can cause permanent or temporary damage to the cells in your retina. Be aware it could take hours or days to realize you damaged your eyes.

Eye symptoms – Other symptoms you can experience if you view the eclipse without eye protection are distorted vision and altered color vision. Contact your eye care professional if you notice any of these symptoms.

Tips for viewing a solar eclipse

The American Astronomical Society listed useful instructions for viewing the eclipse. Here’s a summary:

Inspect – Check the condition of your solar filter; it should be free from any scratches and punctures. If there is any damage, don’t use it.

Follow instructions – Read and follow the instructions on your solar filter or on the package.

Supervise – Always supervise children using solar filters, whether using eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers.

Eyeglasses – If you wear eyeglasses, keep them on and put the eclipse glasses over them or use a handheld viewer in front of them.

Don’t remove filter or glasses – Before looking up family viewing eclipse with safety glassesat the sun, stand still and cover your eyes with eclipse glasses or a solar filter. After viewing, look away from the sun and then remove your glasses or filter. Don’t remove your eclipse glasses or solar filter while looking up at the sun. In other words, be mindful and cautious.

In path – If you’re lucky and can view the eclipse in the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the moon is covering the sun completely. You’ll be able to see a total solar eclipse for a short time, but as soon as the sun starts to reappear, make sure to use your eclipse glasses or solar filter for the rest of the time. It’s not safe to look at the sun without eye protection.

Outside of path – If you’re viewing outside the path of totality, use your safe solar filter during the entire event.

No cameras – It’s recommended to get expert advice if you want to use a camera or telescope during the solar eclipse. Do not look at the sun through a camera, telescope or other devices even while wearing eclipse glasses or using a solar filter.

Looking towards the sun or at the solar eclipse without eye protection can cause permanent damage to your vision. We want you to experience this exciting and unique event, but please be safe and protect your eyes. For any medical questions concerning your eyes and vision, please contact your eye doctor.

For more information and additional resources:

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A Good Way to Teach and Encourage Healthy Habits

It’s back-to-school time for your kids, and now that we’veFamily reading a book together covered tooth care tips to keep their smiles bright, let’s back up those healthy habits with some good reading material. Besides the importance of reading and encouraging it for our back-to-school theme, books about oral health can work as a way to get your kids excited about taking care of their teeth. With some assistance from you, what they read can inspire them to be more independent when taking care of their teeth. Using books as a tool to teach dental and vision health can be fun and helpful. Books can also work as a buffer for push-back from kids who don’t want to brush or floss. Books can also help calm fears if your child is apprehensive about a visit to the dentist or eye doctor. And for kids who need reassurances about wearing glasses to school, we’ve got a list of good reads for that, too.

Add to your children’s library

We’ve put together a list to add to your children’s bookcase:

Brush, Brush, Brush by Alicia Padron, for children ages 1-3, may be helpful if your child is scared or fussy when the little toothbrush comes out. Because it’s a board book, it’s easy for little hands to grip. Cheerful pictures demonstrate each step of brushing, like putting toothpaste on the brush and rinsing with water.

The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss, for children ages 2-5, might be the most recognizable book about teeth because it’s from one of the most adored children’s authors. Another good introduction to dental hygiene for the little ones. The book illustrates who has teeth and who doesn’t and how to take care of your teeth.

Going to the Dentist by Anne Civardi, for children ages 3-5, will teach your kids what to expect when they visit the dentist. This could help with any fear or anxiety. The book explains the different tools the dentist will use during the visit with an amusing and friendly tone. If you need a few more with this subject matter, there are similar ones from character favorites like Curious George and the Berenstain Bears. Famous author Mercer Mayor also has a book about visiting the dentist.

Brush, Floss, and Rinse by Amanda Doering Tourville is for children ages 5-8. The book teaches readers about the importance of brushing and flossing. It describes how brushing keeps plaque and cavities away and explains how flossing keeps gums healthy. Other details in the book include when to get a new toothbrush and wearing a mouth guard for sports to protect teeth.

For the nervous and uncooperative kids

Here’s a few more titles to help if your kids are not cooperating when it’s time to brush their teeth, and if your child is nervous about their first dentist appointment:

Pony Brushes His Teeth by Michael Dahl (ages 2-4)

Brush Your Teeth, Please by Leslie Mcguire (ages 2-5)

Maisy, Charley, and the Wobbly Tooth by Lucy Cousins (ages 2-5)

Dentist Trip from the Peppa Pig series (ages 2-5)

For kids returning to school with a new accessory

A book can be a great way to introduce wearing glasses and visiting the eye doctor. If your child is worried about going to school with glasses, here are some recommendations that could help.

Who Wears Glasses by Ana Galan, for ages 4-7, is a fun way to remind kids that they’re in good company if they wear glasses.

The Princess Who Wore Glasses by Laura Hertzfeld Katz is for ages 4-8. The book emphasizes how healthy vision is important to see all the beautiful details in the world. The story presents an eye test and glasses as magical, a great and positive approach for kids.

Arlo Needs Glasses by Barney Saltzberg, for ages 3-6, tells the story of a shaggy dog who can’t play catch because he can’t see the ball. Arlo’s story is a way to show kids that glasses can help them do all the things they want to do. The book is also interactive and includes details on Arlo’s visit to the eye doctor.

My Travelin’ Eye by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw, for ages 4-7, tells the story of a girl who has an eye condition called strabismus. The book shows the challenges of being different, and highlights an upbeat and creative outlook. The story can be an inspiration for kids with eye conditions.

All these books will coincide with your kids’ upcoming back-to-school dental and vision appointments and provide preparation for the school year. There are lots more titles to choose from, so spend a little time at the bookstore and find the ones that best suit you and your kids.

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6 Tooth Care Tips to Keep Your Kids in School with Healthy Smiles

kids at schoolAccording to a report by the Surgeon General, more than 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental-related illness. We don’t want our kids to miss even one day of fun and learning because they have a dental issue, so let’s start off the school year with healthy smile habits. While you and your family start the routine of packing lunches, doing homework, and getting to the bus on time, remember to make brushing and flossing a part of that. When brushing teeth becomes a part of the routine, it will help create and encourage the healthy habit.

With a healthy smile, kids can enter the classroom with confidence. But with an unhealthy smile, kids could miss more days of school and be more distracted while in class. Painful dental problems could prevent kids from participating in class activities and could also affect their concentration levels. Serious issues like tooth decay affect their overall health and could lead to other problems with eating, speaking and learning.

These healthy choices will keep your kids smiling and help prevent missed school days for dental procedures:

  • Brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day, making sure all surfaces of the teeth are covered.
  • While paying close attention to the gum line, gently brush teeth for two minutes.
  • Floss teeth at least once a day.
  • Schedule regular dental appointments for the whole family.
  • Pack lunches with healthy smile choices like apples, carrots and celery. Try to limit sugar-filled snacks and high-starch or refined carbohydrate foods like chips, pretzels, cookies, and white bread.
  • Choose milk or water instead of juice for lunch. The bacteria that causes tooth decay thrives on simple sugars, like those found in sticky foods and sugary beverages, like soda, juice and sports drinks.

Children smile, on average, 400 times a day! Let’s keep those smiles healthy, clean and bright while they are in school and all the time. If you haven’t made your preventive dental appointments for you and your kids yet, here’s your reminder. Most plans cover dental exams and cleanings every six months. You still have time before the kids head back to school!

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What to Keep in Your Dental First Aid Kit

Summer is a great time for a camping trip with the family. And generally, during the summer, we spend more time outdoors swimming, hiking, and playing softball with our buddies. July was declared National Park and Recreation Month encouraging the public to get out and enjoy nature’s beauty. No matter your activity of choice this summer, we are happy to see you getting out there and staying healthy. We have a special concern for your oral health, so let’s keep those smiles healthy and safe with an emergency kit for dental injuries.

Is your dental office phone number saved?

Summer activities are keeping you active and healthy, but they also have the potential of causing dental injuries. For starters, keep dental emergency information like the phone number of your dentist and your dental benefits information readily available, so it’s easy to find during an emergency or if you’re away from home. Pass this information on to your childcare provider or family members who are watching your kids.

Dental emergency kit essentials

Along with keeping dental emergency information handy, create a dental first aid kit that’s packed and ready to go for camping trips, road trips, and your other summertime activities. Here’s what we recommend stocking your dental emergency kit with:

Rubber gloves – to prevent spreading germs when first aid kitcaring for an injury.

Alcohol wipes – to clean an injury.

Cotton balls or gauze pads – to help stop bleeding and temporarily protect an injury.

Hydrogen peroxide – to disinfect and to use for cleaning an injury.

Salt – to make a soothing mouthwash, dissolve with warm water.

Floss – to remove stuck particles from teeth in order to relieve pain.

Dental wax – to cover up sharp or broken orthodontic wires and brackets or a fractured tooth.

Pain reliever – to help with any oral pain.

Topical anesthetic – to help manage oral pain more directly.

Vaseline – to temporarily reattach a crown, but see a dentist as soon as possible.

Temporary dental filling material – store-bought products will keep the injured tooth protected temporarily, but, again, get to a dentist as quickly as soon as you can.

If you’re out camping, having these supplies can help with a bit tongue or lip. If the injury is more serious, like a knocked out tooth, you’ll need to get to an emergency room or a dentist’s office.

If your tooth is knocked out…

If you, a family member or friend has a tooth knocked out, first rinse the tooth with cold water. If you can, place the tooth back in its socket. If that isn’t possible, put the tooth in a clean container with milk, water or saliva. The 30 minutes after the injury is critical with a knocked out tooth. To try to save the tooth, get to a dentist as soon as possible.

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