Dental Care Q&A

Thumb-Sucking & Pacifiers

Thumb-sucking and use of pacifiers are common soothing behaviors among infants and young children. While these habits are natural and often comforting for your child, parents often wonder if they can have adverse effects on their dental health. In this article, we will explore the impact of thumb-sucking and pacifier use on a child’s teeth and provide guidance on how to manage these habits for a healthy smile.

Thumb-sucking and pacifier use can influence the development of your child’s teeth and jaws, especially if these habits persist beyond the age of three.

Here’s how:

Malocclusion Prolonged and vigorous thumb-sucking or pacifier use can lead to malocclusion, which refers to misalignment of the teeth. These habits can push the teeth outward, causing an open bite (a gap between the upper and lower front teeth) or an overbite (when the upper teeth overlap the lower ones).

Changes in the Palate
The pressure exerted by thumb-sucking or pacifiers can affect the shape of the roof of the mouth (palate). This can result in a high, arched palate that may contribute to speech issues.

Impact on Speech
Thumb-sucking and pacifier use can affect the development of speech patterns, especially if the habits continue as a child learns to speak.

Breaking the Habit

The good news is that most children naturally outgrow thumb-sucking and pacifier use as they get older. However, if you’re concerned about the potential dental consequences, there are several strategies you can employ

Positive Reinforcement
Encourage your child to stop thumb-sucking or pacifier use by offering praise and rewards when they refrain from the habit.

Identify the situations that trigger thumb-sucking or pacifier use, such as boredom or anxiety, and provide alternative activities or comfort items.

Thumb Guards and Dental Appliances
In some cases, orthodontic devices or thumb guards may be recommended by a dentist or orthodontist to discourage thumb-sucking.

Engage Your Child
Have a gentle conversation with your child about why it’s essential to stop the habit and involve them in the process of breaking it.

Consult a Dentist
If you’re concerned about the impact on your child’s dental health, consult with a dentist. They can assess the situation and provide guidance tailored to your child’s specific needs.

Thumb-sucking and pacifier use are normal behaviors for infants and young children, but they can have an impact on dental development if they persist beyond the age of approximately three years old. As a parent, it’s essential to strike a balance between comforting your child and addressing potential dental concerns. By using positive reinforcement, distraction techniques, and seeking guidance from a dentist if necessary, you can help your child develop a healthy smile and break these habits naturally.

Dr. Patel and Dr. Valente can advise and answer your questions about your child’s oral health and dental development. Make your appointment at our Carrollwood or Wesley Chapel location today!

What is Dental Anxiety?

Dental anxiety, also referred to as dental phobia, is a common condition characterized by intense apprehension or fear related to dental visits and procedures. It can vary in severity from mild unease to extreme distress, and it can lead individuals to avoid necessary dental care altogether. Dental anxiety is a legitimate concern that affects people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life.

Living with dental anxiety can be a challenge, but there are several strategies you can use to cope with it and make your dental visits more manageable:

Find a Supportive Dentist

Look for a dentist who understands dental anxiety and is willing to work with you to create a comfortable and supportive environment. Discuss your fears with them beforehand so they can adjust their approach accordingly.


Openly communicate your anxiety with your dentist and their staff. Let them know your specific fears, triggers, and concerns so they can tailor their approach to make you feel more at ease.

Gradual Exposure

If your anxiety is severe, consider starting with small, non-invasive procedures to gradually build your comfort level. This can help you become more accustomed to the dental environment and reduce your anxiety over time.

Relaxation Techniques

Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or visualization before and during your dental appointment. These techniques can help lower your anxiety levels and promote a sense of calm.


Bring headphones and listen to calming music, an audiobook, or a podcast during your appointment. Focusing on something other than the dental procedure can help take your mind off your anxiety.

Positive Visualization

Visualize a positive outcome for your dental visit. Imagine yourself feeling calm and relaxed during the appointment and afterward.


Gradually expose yourself to dental-related stimuli outside of the dental office. This could include looking at dental tools or watching videos of dental procedures. Over time, this exposure can help reduce the intensity of your anxiety.


In some cases, your dentist or doctor might recommend anti-anxiety medication to help you relax during dental appointments. Talk to a healthcare professional to explore this option.

Seek Professional Help

If your dental anxiety is severe and significantly affects your daily life, consider seeking the help of a mental health professional. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be effective in managing anxiety.

Sedation Dentistry

Some dental practices offer sedation options, ranging from mild sedation to deep sedation, to help patients relax during procedures. Discuss these options with your dentist to see if they are suitable for you.

Regular Dental Visits

Maintaining regular dental check-ups can help prevent dental issues from becoming more serious. Catching problems early can reduce the need for extensive procedures, which can in turn reduce anxiety.

Supportive Company

If possible, bring a trusted friend or family member to accompany you during your appointments. Having someone familiar by your side can provide comfort and reassurance.

Remember that overcoming dental anxiety takes time, and it’s okay to take things slowly if that’s what you need. The most important thing is to find strategies that work best for you and to prioritize your oral health.

Dr Patel and the A Caring Dentist staff are experienced in dealing with dental anxiety and will always do our best to put you at ease when you visit us at our Carrollwood or Wesley Chapel locations.

Oral Health and Sleep Disorders

Many people don’t realize that oral health and sleep are closely linked. Sleep disorders can affect oral health, and oral health problems can also contribute to sleep disorders. Basically, the relationship between oral health and sleep disorders is a complex one, with both conditions affecting each other in a number of ways.

Sleep Apnea

There is evidence to suggest a potential link between oral health and sleep disorders, particularly in relation to a condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) The relationship between oral health and OSA can be attributed to the role of oral structures in airway function. The oral cavity, including the tongue, soft palate, and throat, plays a crucial role in maintaining a clear and unobstructed airway during sleep.

OSA often leads to breathing interruptions during sleep, which can cause a decrease in saliva production. Reduced saliva flow results in a dry mouth (xerostomia). Saliva plays a crucial role in oral health by moistening and cleansing the mouth, neutralizing acids, and helping to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. A chronically dry mouth can increase the risk of dental problems such as tooth decay, gum inflammation, and bad breath.

Teeth Grinding

Bruxism, a sleep disorder that can often be related to sleep apnea (OSA) that causes people to clench or grind their teeth during sleep, can put stress on the teeth and jaw, which can lead to tooth wear, pain, and jaw problems.

Enlarged Tonsils & Adenoids

Enlarged tonsils or adenoids, particularly in children, can obstruct the airway during sleep and contribute to breathing difficulties and sleep disorders.
Dry mouth, a common symptom of many sleep disorders, can be caused by decreased saliva production, which can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems.

Other Conditions

Gum disease can cause pain and inflammation in the gums, which can make it difficult to sleep comfortably. Tooth pain can be a major cause of sleep disturbance. Even mild tooth pain can cause people to wake up frequently during the night. Jaw problems, such as TMJ disorder, can also cause sleep disturbance. These problems can cause pain in the jaw, which can make it difficult to sleep comfortably.

If you are experiencing sleep problems, it may be helpful to mention this to your dentist to rule out any oral health conditions that may be contributing to the problem. You should also see a doctor to evaluate whether any other medical conditions that may be causing your sleep issues.


Dr. Patel and the A Caring Dentist staff are here to help with all your dental needs and can address any concerns you may have with your teeth and oral health. Make an appointment today at our Carrollwood or Wesley Chapel location.

What Are Signs of Oral Cancer?

When you see your dentist for a check up, they will also look for signs of oral cancer. Oral cancer is a type of cancer that affects the mouth, lips, tongue, or throat and it is the most common type of cancer in the head and neck region. Statistics indicate that over 51,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer and cancers of the throat, tonsils, and back of the tongue every year.

Signs & Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of oral cancer can vary depending on the location of the cancer. Some common signs and symptoms include:

  • A lump or sore in the mouth that does not heal
  • A change in the color of the gums or tongue
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Bleeding gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain in the mouth or throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Ear pain
  • Unexplained weight loss

Here are some other signs and symptoms of oral cancer that are less common:

  • Numbness or tingling in the mouth
  • Thickening of the lining of the mouth
  • Red or white patches in the mouth
  • Drainage from the mouth
  • Bad breath that does not go away

The most common oral cancer symptom is a flat, painless white or red spot, or a small sore in the mouth. In many cases, having a spot or sore in your mouth is harmless but it’s important to tell your dentist if you notice any so they can check and determine if it is, in fact, harmless or something that warrants further attention.

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, see your dentist right away. Early detection and treatment of oral cancer can improve the chances of a successful outcome.

Risk Factors

Here are some of the risk factors for oral cancer:

  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol use
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Family history of oral cancer
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, such as arsenic and chromium
  • Certain genetic syndromes

If you have any of these risk factors, it is important to see your dentist for regular checkups so your oral health can be monitored for any changes.

Reduce Your Risk

Here are some things you can do to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer:

  • Quit smoking and chewing tobacco
    Smoking is the leading cause of oral cancer. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer. Chewing tobacco is also a major risk factor for oral cancer. If you chew tobacco, quitting is also important.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol use
    Alcohol use is not as big of a risk factor for oral cancer as smoking, but it can still increase your risk. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
  • Get vaccinated against HPV
    The HPV vaccine can help protect you from developing oral cancer. The HPV vaccine is recommended for all boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 12.
  • Practice good oral hygiene
    Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time and floss once a day. This will help remove plaque and bacteria from your teeth and gums.
  • See your dentist for regular checkups
    Your dentist can look for any signs of oral cancer during your regular checkups.

If you have any of the aforementioned risk factors, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer and to see your dentist for regular checkups. Early detection of changes in your oral health are important for a good outcome.

Dr. Patel is here to help with all your dental needs and can address any concerns you may have with your teeth and oral health. Make an appointment today at our Carrollwood or Wesley Chapel location.

Are Tooth Jewelry & Grills Safe For Teeth?

Tooth jewelry is a type of body jewelry that is worn on the teeth. It is typically made of small metal designs or beads that are attached to the teeth with dental adhesive. Tooth jewelry can be used to make a fashion statement, or it can be used to cover up a dental imperfection, such as a chipped tooth or a gap between teeth.

Grills are larger, more decorative pieces of jewelry that are worn on the teeth. They are typically made of gold, silver, or other metals. Grills are often used in hip-hop culture, and they have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Both tooth jewelry and grills can be damaging to the teeth if they are not applied properly or if they are not taken care of properly.

How Tooth Jewelry Can Damage Your Teeth

The adhesive used to attach the jewelry to your teeth can weaken the enamel, making your teeth more susceptible to cavities. The jewelry itself can also chip or scratch your teeth, and it can make it difficult to brush and floss properly, which can also lead to cavities. Additionally, tooth jewelry can harbor bacteria, which can cause gum disease.

If you are considering getting tooth jewelry, it is important to talk to your dentist about the risks and benefits. Your dentist can help you choose a safe and effective way to apply the jewelry, and they can also provide you with tips on how to care for your teeth after the jewelry is applied.

Here are some of the risks associated with tooth jewelry:

  • Enamel damage: The adhesive used to attach the jewelry to your teeth can weaken the enamel, making your teeth more susceptible to cavities.
  • Chipping and scratching: The jewelry itself can chip or scratch your teeth.
  • Difficulty brushing and flossing: Tooth jewelry can make it difficult to brush and floss properly, which can lead to cavities.
  • Bacteria buildup: Tooth jewelry can harbor bacteria, which can cause gum disease.

What About Grills?

Tooth jewelry and grills are both types of body jewelry that are worn on the teeth. However, there are some key differences between the two that can make one more damaging than the other.

Tooth jewelry is typically made of small, metal studs or beads that are attached to the teeth with dental adhesive. Grills, on the other hand, are larger, more decorative pieces that are made of gold, silver, or other metals. They are typically attached to the teeth with screws or brackets.

The main difference between tooth jewelry and grills is the amount of damage they can cause to the teeth. Tooth jewelry is less likely to cause damage because it is smaller and lighter than grills. However, it can still damage the teeth if it is not applied properly or if it is not taken care of properly.

Grills are more likely to cause damage to the teeth because they are larger and heavier. They can also put more pressure on the teeth, which can lead to chipping, cracking, and even tooth loss. Additionally, grills can be difficult to clean, which can lead to the buildup of plaque and bacteria.

Overall, tooth jewelry is less damaging than grills, though there are risks with both. Your dentist can help you choose the best option for you and can also provide you with tips on how to care for your teeth after the jewelry is applied, though we recommend you talk to your dentist about the risks and benefits of both before making a decision.

Dr. Patel can advise help you make an informed decision at our Carrollwood or Wesley Chapel dental office locations. Make an appointment today!

How Fast Do Cavities Form on Teeth?

The speed at which cavities form can vary depending on a number of factors, including your oral hygiene practices, your diet, your genetics, and your overall health. However, in general, cavities can form relatively quickly, often within months or even weeks.

Cavities form when the bacteria in your mouth produce acid that attacks the enamel on your teeth. This acid can dissolve the minerals in your enamel, creating small holes or pits in the tooth. Over time, these holes can grow larger and deeper, leading to a cavity.

If you do not brush and floss your teeth regularly, the bacteria in your mouth can quickly build up and produce more acid, increasing your risk of developing cavities. Similarly, if you consume a lot of sugary or acidic foods and drinks, the acid in your mouth can increase, speeding up the process of cavity formation.

It is important to maintain good oral hygiene practices, including brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and seeing Dr. Patel regularly for cleanings and check-ups, to prevent cavities from forming or to catch them early when they are less painful and easier to treat.

Dr. Patel and the team at A Caring Dentist of Tampa can help you protect your teeth with regular dental check ups. Make an appointment at our Carrollwood or Wesley Chapel dental offices today. Take care of your teeth and they will take care of you!

Is Alcohol Bad for Teeth?

Alcohol is common in society and many celebratory occasions will involve at least a toast with an alcoholic beverage. That said, it’s important to know that alcohol can cause conditions in your mouth that are less than ideal for your teeth and oral health.

Alcohol Contains Sugars

Our whole lives we’ve been told to avoid sweets because sugar can cause cavities. This is accurate. The bacteria in your mouth actually thrives on sugars and the end result is plaque and tartar, which can cause cavities and gum disease.

Choose alcoholic beverages that are lower in sugar. Avoid drinks with sweet mixers such as soda or juice and choose drier, less sweet wines and champagnes because they contain less sugar and thus, are less damaging to your teeth.

Alcohol is Dehydrating

Saliva flow in the mouth helps wash away sugars in the mouth, giving them less of an opportunity to begin forming plaque on your tooth surfaces. Alcohol, however, increases dehydration and reduces saliva flow in the mouth. The end result of dehydration is less bacteria is washed out of your mouth and this provides a much friendlier environment for bacteria to multiply and cause tooth decay.

Consider having a glass of water between alcoholic beverages to help rinse away sugars. Another helpful trick is to chew sugarless gum, which increases saliva production. Either way, increasing saliva and rinsing away sugars is a good policy if you’re going to be partaking in alcoholic beverages.

Alcoholic Drinks Can Be Acidic

When alcohol is mixed with acidic drinks such as fruit juices, soda, or energy drinks, the acids can erode your tooth enamel. If you drink these beverages regularly, your tooth enamel will gradually erode, resulting in compromised and sensitive teeth. Using a straw can help direct beverages away from your teeth but it’s recommended you also alternate your drinks with some water to wash away acids and consider using a re-mineralizing toothpaste if you drink acidic or sugary alcoholic beverages.

Some Alcoholic Beverages Contribute to Tooth Stains

Strongly colored alcoholic beverages such as red wines and drinks with deeply colored juice mixers can discolor your teeth and contribute to long-lasting tooth stains.

You can counter these stains by regularly brushing with a whitening toothpaste that contains hydrogen peroxide or, if you prefer more dramatic results, by visiting A Caring Dentist for a professional dental whitening procedure.

Dr Patel can evaluate your oral health or tooth staining concerns at our Carrollwood or Wesley Chapel dental office locations. Make an appointment today!

Does Whitening Toothpaste Work?

Do Whitening Toothpastes Really Work?

The short answer is yes and no…

While there are many brands of whitening toothpaste available, the fact is regular toothpaste is effective at cleaning surface stains, also called “extrinsic” stains, when you brush regularly. For more stubborn stains, however, a whitening toothpaste may help, depending on how deeply the stain has penetrated your enamel.

Whitening toothpastes can lighten those extrinsic surface stains but, unfortunately, it can’t change the natural color of your teeth or lighten a stain that goes deeper than a tooth’s surface.

What Results Can I Expect from Whitening Toothpaste?

Whitening toothpastes can lighten the tooth’s color by about one shade. In contrast, professional whitening conducted in your dentist’s office can make your teeth three to eight shades lighter.

How Do Whitening Toothpaste Work?

To remove surface stains, whitening toothpaste typically include silica abrasives that gently polish the teeth or peroxide or other chemicals that help break down or dissolve stains. Some whitening toothpastes may also contain the chemical blue covarine, which adheres to the surface of the teeth and creates an optical illusion that can make teeth appear less yellow. The blue color neutralizes the appearance of any yellow in your teeth as blue and yellow are opposite colors.

How Long Until I See Results?

When used 2x a day, whitening toothpaste can take from two to six weeks to make your teeth appear whiter. Keep in mind, however, that if you continue staining your teeth with coffee, smoking and certain foods such as blueberries or beets, your progress will be continuously thwarted. We recommend brushing after eating and especially after enjoying coffee and wine.

Whitening toothpaste is an inexpensive and easy way to remove minor surface stains. It will take time, and you may need to make some lifestyle changes but you can get reasonable, albeit not dramatic, results. If you want to make your smile even brighter, talk to Dr. Patel about professional whitening with Zoom2 at our Carrollwood or Wesley Chapel locations.

Tips for Avoiding Bad Breath

Bad breath, also called halitosis, is something everyone experiences from time to time but if you suspect you may have a problem, we have some tips to help keep your breath fresher and your mouth feeling cleaner.

Brush and Floss Regularly

Plaque build-up on teeth is a major contributor to bad breath. Bacteria clings to plaque and multiplies and that ever-growing bacteria creates an offensive smell. Food particles are also contributors to bad breath. Both of these factors can be controlled with regular brushing and flossing. We recommend brushing twice a day and flossing once per day.

Rinse Your Mouth

Swishing and spitting with plain water after you eat is definitely helpful for removing odor-causing food particles after you eat. If you wanted to take it a step further, consider using some mouthwash after you rinse with water. Make sure you choose a brand that kills germs since bacteria is often a cause of unpleasant breath.

Tongue Scraping

You may have noticed a coating on your tongue. This is normal but that coating also harbors things that can cause bad breath, such as bacteria, food debris, and dead cells. You can brush your tongue gently after brushing your teeth or you can use a tongue scraper, which is actually a bit more effective than brushing your tongue. Studies have shown that brushing the tongue or using a tongue scraper can reduce halitosis by as much as 70 percent.

Stop Smoking

In addition to being terrible for your overall health, smoking is bad for gum health, stains your teeth and causes bad breath. Quitting smoking will improve your dental health as well as your breath!

Instead of Eating Mints, Chew Gum

Mints will only cover up bad breath temporarily but more importantly, they’re usually made of sugar and plaque thrives on sugar. Chewing some sugarless gum will stimulate saliva production and saliva helps neutralize the plaque acids that cause both tooth decay and bad breath.

Keep Your Mouth Moist

A dry mouth is a mouth where plaque and bacteria will thrive. Be sure to drink water throughout the day and swish with water after eating.

Ask Your Dentist to Check for Tonsil Stones

The main symptom of tonsil stones is bad breath. Tonsil stones are mineralizations of debris within the crevices of the tonsils. The debris comes primarily from old food particles.

Avoid Bad-Breath Foods

Onions and garlic are two well-known offenders when it comes to foods that cause bad breath. Unfortunately, brushing after you eat them doesn’t completely remedy the problem because as you digest these foods, they emit gases that enter your bloodstream, are carried to your lungs and ultimately affect your breath. There is anecdotal evidence that drinking milk or eating parsley or mint leaves afterward can neutralize these odors.

Practice Good Gum Hygiene

Gum disease produces a particularly offensive smell. See your dentist regularly to maintain your gum health, along with daily flossing to remove the plaque/tartar that will eventually contribute to tooth decay and gum disease.

If you’re concerned that a dental condition may be causing your bad breath, Dr. Patel can evaluate your oral health at our Carrollwood or Wesley Chapel locations. Make an appointment today!

A New Year of Dental Health

Going to the dentist is not something most people love to do and we understand that. This is at least one reason making routine dental appointments often gets put on the back burner for many of us. If everything looks and feels fine, it just doesn’t seem like a top priority, right? Unfortunately, it’s that reasoning that leads to so many preventable dental issues.

Your routine dental cleaning and check ups are the very best way to prevent bigger, more painful and more expensive dental issues down the road. Why? Because when you come for your bi-annual cleaning, Dr. Patel and our dental hygiene team do many things you might not even be aware of, such as checking for signs of gum disease, oral cancer, compromised fillings and crowns and of course, tooth decay. Catching these things early can help preserve your teeth and smile and in some cases, your overall health, as dental issues have been linked to heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, dementia, and problems during pregnancy.

The Secret to a Year of Dental Health

The secret is simple—make both your cleaning appointments for the year at the same time—one for the near future and another one for six months later. Once you have the appointments made, you’re much more likely to see your dentist twice a year and if there are any problems, they can be addressed and resolved before they become bigger issues.

Don’t Forget Your New Years Dental Resolutions

A study was published by the journal of Community Dentistry & Oral Epidemiology that determined that people with 20 teeth or more at 70 years old had a much higher chance of living longer than those with less than 20 teeth. The key is keeping as many of your own teeth as you can and for as long as possible with good dental care.

Dental experts have also determined that flossing daily can add upwards to 6 years to your life! With these statistics in mind, here are some of our suggested resolutions for a new year of better dental health and a happy smile:

  • Make both of your annual dental cleaning appointments at the same time and preferably at the beginning of the year
  • Brush at least twice a day. This is one we have heard our whole lives and yet it bears repeating.
  • Commit to flossing every day. It takes less than two minutes and the health benefits are immense.
  • Try to quit smoking. Of course this is good for your overall health but smoking is also linked to a dental problems and tooth loss.
  • Use an anti-cavity mouthwash.
  • Follow your dentist or hygienist’s recommendations.

Dr. Patel, Dr. Parasher and the team at A Caring Dentist of Tampa can help you protect your teeth with regular dental check ups. Make an appointment at our Carrollwood or Wesley Chapel dental offices today. Take care of your teeth and they will take care of you!

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