mother and daughter practicing good oral hygiene

Helpful Dental Hygiene Hacks for Kids

A common question among parents is when they should begin teaching their children oral hygiene. Many dentists assert that parents can start laying the groundwork for good brushing habits before their child’s first tooth even breaks the surface.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), tooth decay is the most common chronic disease found in children and adolescents, and is four times more likely to affect teens between 14 and 17 than asthma.

But for many parents, getting their kids to brush their teeth is a battle not unlike getting them to eat their broccoli or go to bed on time, But it doesn’t need to be this way. There are many ways parents can set their children up for success when it comes to their oral health without needing to resort to bargaining or threats.

Start Early

For newborns, it is common for parents to use gauze or another type of clean cloth to wipe down their gums down after feedings to discourage germs and bacteria from lingering and developing into problems down the line.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), a child’s first trip to the dentist should coincide with the arrival of the first baby tooth, and should happen no later than their first birthday.

Early exposure to dentist visits and cleaning their mouths can help get your child used to these activities in the future. Starting good oral hygiene habits early can help show them that these activities are not out of the ordinary and are just part of the routine and nothing to be afraid of or anxious about.

Lead by Example

Whether it’s what you say or what you do, kids love to imitate adults. So, when it comes to oral hygiene, make sure you’re setting a good example. Try dancing, making funny faces, or even singing or humming a song while brushing. No matter what you do, just be sure that your child sees you enjoying brushing your teeth. This will teach them that brushing is a fun activity that they can look forward to.

Make It Fun

Toothbrush makers know that the more fun they can make brushing for kids, the more likely those kids will grow into adults with healthy brushing habits. That’s why so many toothbrushes now come in flashy colors – some with cartoon characters, some that play music, and others that light up.

And while you won’t be able to find any toothpaste to sing songs to your kids, you will find it available in a variety of colors, flavors, and some even with glitter or other special effects.

Having a cool toothbrush may be half the battle but using positive reinforcement techniques to encourage your toddler to keep brushing also helps. Sticker charts, a special snack, and even an extra ten minutes of play time are all great ideas.

Find What Works

No two children are the same and what works for one, may not work for another. Some children’s gums may be more sensitive than others which will force parents to opt for soft or silicone bristled toothbrushes. Ultimately, it is up to you, the parent, to figure out what works best for your child and hygiene structure.

For parents with children who struggle with developmental disabilities such as autism, the process for learning good oral health habits may prove even more challenging. And with roughly one out of every 40 children in America diagnosed with autism, there is a growing need for more dentists and dental practitioners to be both better equipped and knowledgeable when it comes to serving patients with developmental disabilities.

If your child falls into this group, and getting them to practice good oral hygiene proves too strenuous for both of you, a Board-certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) may be able to help.

stressed young man at work

How Chronic Stress Can Lead to a Long-Term Disability

According to Smithsonian, Gallup’s 2019 Global Emotions Report illustrated that “More than half of United States respondents—around 55 percent—reported feelings of high stress the day prior to being polled…while 45 percent said they felt worried ‘a lot of the day’”. With the global stress levels at approximately 35%, this left the United States in a four-way tie with Albania, Iran, and Sri Lanka for the fourth-most stressed country in the world.

And while a certain amount of stress is normal, chronic stress can cause more than just a few restless nights.

What stresses you out?

In November of 2017, the American Psychological Association released the findings of their annual Stress in America survey and found that roughly 61% of Americans feel stressed about their work lives. But some jobs can be more stressful than others.

It’s also worth noting that some of these types of jobs are known to attract specific personality traits. Occupations in the legal and medical field rank as some of the most stressful jobs in the country, which is something both the ABA and AMA are aware of.

In recent years, both associations have taken steps to improve access to mental health services for their members, and to destigmatize mental health conditions.

The Effects of Stress on Mental Health

According to Psychology Today, “Some researchers have suggested that exposure to a moderate level of stress that you can master, can actually make you stronger and better able to manage stress, just like a vaccine, which contains a tiny amount of the bug, can immunize you against getting the disease.”

While this approach may work for some, no two people are the same. Everyone has their own unique body chemistry and may respond to stress stimuli in different ways. In short, what stresses one person out could have little to no effect on someone else.

Knowing When to Get Help

Chronic stress can often lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

If you’re reluctant to seek professional treatment for these issues, there are several things you can try to help overcome the symptoms. One of those ways is by carefully examining your diet: cut down on sugar, limit highly processed foods, and add fruits, veggies, and whole grains to your daily intake. Exercise is another way to boost serotonin levels and keep stress levels down.

However, if you’ve been experiencing any lingering or worsening depression and anxiety symptoms for two weeks or more, it may be best to visit your doctor.

If left untreated, it’s possible for your symptoms to become so severe that you find yourself unable to live your life as normal. They can actually develop into a long-term disability — and prevent you from working.

Protecting Your Income

In many cases, mental health problems are not something that can be predicted. As is the case with most disabilities, there is only so much a person can do to protect themselves. One of the best ways to do this is to protect your income.

If you are experiencing mental health issues and are forced to take a leave of absence from work, the last thing you want to do is worry about money. Since most of your expenses will continue during a time of disability, it is vitally important that you have a plan that covers those commitments.

profile of senior dog

5 Reasons to Adopts a Senior Pet

Every year approximately 3.2 million animals are adopted from shelters in the United States. And while everyone loves how cute puppies and kittens can be, adopters sometimes find that they aren’t able to handle the needs of their pet. When this happens, the animal is often returned to the shelter, or worse — put outside on the street to fend for themselves.

Finding the right pet for you or your family comes down to finding the right fit — which may not always be an energetic and untrained puppy or kitten. In fact, there are many older dogs and cats that have already settled into adulthood, gone through training, and just need a home and a human to call their own.

So what are some of the ways adult and senior dogs and cats differ from their younger selves?

Temperament

Puppies and kittens seem to have two modes: asleep or crazy. But older dogs and cats, who’ve had time to mature, are usually more mellow because everything isn’t shiny and new. The biggest changes to an older cat or dog’s personality may occur in the first few weeks after bringing them home for the first time. Even still, they are unlikely to do a complete personality flip from when you first met them.

If the idea of an energetic pet makes you nervous, a calm, older animal can make a great companion for new pet owners and senior citizens.

Training

Many older dogs who end up at shelters have already had some training and may know some basic commands. They will almost certainly be housebroken and may even be crate trained. Even if your new pet is not trained in all the areas you would like, building on existing training fundamentals is a much easier place to start from.

Exercise

Much like humans, as cats and dogs mature their energy levels tend to decrease resulting in a need for fewer long walks and less playtime. However, they should still be taken outside at regular intervals and played with for extra bonding time. Dog parks are also a great way for your dog to expend some of their excess energy while socializing with other dogs.

Cats, on the other hand, are notoriously independent. Given a proper assortment of toys to choose from (or cat furniture and scratching posts) most will exercise themselves. However, playing with your cat can do every bit as much good for your wellbeing as for theirs. Is your cat acting out? Playtime can also help relieve your cat of aggression they may be showing. Just be sure to put the squeaky and jingly toys away before bed or your cat may decide it’s time to play at 3 am.

Veterinary Care

When adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue you’ll receive a breakdown of the animal’s medical history. Adult and senior animals will almost always be spayed or neutered, whereas some puppies and kittens may be too young for the procedure upon adoption. In cases like these, the surgery will need to be scheduled when they are old enough. Vaccination records, current medications, and general health concerns should also be discussed.

Love

A puppy or kitten will love you no matter what because it has also never known (or has no memory of) a life before you. But the best part of adopting an adult or senior dog is that they have every bit as much love to give you and your family as a puppy or kitten would — maybe even more.

By adopting an older dog or cat, this animal will love you unconditionally because it knows what life is like without you, or worse — what life is like without anyone. Dogs and cats that come from the street spend their lives scrounging for food, dodging cars, and staying away from other more aggressive animals or predators. Being in that constant state of fight or flight, they may need a little time to adjust to their new surroundings and understand that they are safe. Once this happens, there is no limit on their love, loyalty, and gratitude.

elderly man getting eye exam for cataracts

What to Expect: Seeing Your Way Through Cataracts Surgery

No one ever claimed that getting older would be fun. And while the many technological advancements in medicine can’t solve everything related to aging, it can help restore vision loss due to cataracts.

What are Cataracts?

According to All About Vision, “A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside the eye, causing vision loss that cannot be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or corneal refractive surgery like LASIK.” While this may sound serious, cataracts are considered common. By the age of 60, more than half of American seniors will be diagnosed with one.

As our eyes age, our lenses become thicker and increasingly opaque. In some cases, the lens may begin to break down, causing a cloudiness and eventually forming into a cataract. While there are other risk factors that can increase your chances of developing cataracts, the development is most often attributed to age.

In 2015, it was estimated that more than 3.6 million cataract surgeries would be performed in the U.S., and more than 20 million worldwide. Because the development of cataracts has become so common, cataracts surgery has become accepted as a fairly normal part of aging.

What to Expect

If you have cataracts, chances are you and your eye doctor have already been aware of it for some time. Cataracts need to progress to a certain point before they become medically necessary to remove. Once this happens, you and your doctor will schedule a date for a pre-op appointment and surgery.

While the surgery only typically takes approximately ten minutes to perform, the in-office recovery time can take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour before you can be driven home. Your eye doctor will often send you home with an eye patch, some medicated drops, and a list of activities to avoid until you recover.

Some of these activities may include:

  • Strenuous activity (exercise, lifting anything over 25 lbs)
  • Bending down
  • Getting water in your eyes
  • Exposing your eye to dust or contaminants

Strict adherence to your doctor’s after-care instructions is essential to a full recovery.

Unforeseen Costs

If your doctor considers the surgery medically necessary, Medicare will typically cover most of the cost of the surgery, the pre-surgical exam, and any follow-up care you may require. But Medicare enrollees will still be responsible for meeting their deductible and paying a coinsurance of 20 percent out of pocket. For many seniors living on a fixed income, paying for what Medicare doesn’t can be difficult.

Fortunately, there is Medicare supplement insurance. If you or someone you love is approaching the age of 65, a Medicare supplemental insurance policy (otherwise known as a Medigap policy) can help fill in the financial gaps.

middle aged mixed race woman telecommuting working from home at dining room table

How to Reduce Workers Comp Claims for Telecommuting Employees

While the majority of attorneys still find themselves in law offices across the country, there is a growing telecommuting trend that is unlikely to go away anytime soon. As little as a generation ago, there may have been a stigma around those who work from home — that they didn’t care as much, or weren’t as serious about their jobs — but that stigma is slowly beginning to fade.

Lawyers are notorious for always being on the job – whether in the office, the courtroom, jails, or even on vacation. Is predominantly working from home really that much of a stretch?

Technological advancements in email, video conferencing, and cloud storage have not only made working from home more possible but also, in some cases, more profitable and preferable.

But what does that mean for workers’ compensation claims? If your employees work from home, could they still file a workers’ comp claim if they injure themselves on the job?

Workers’ Comp and Telecommuting

Solo practitioners may have started the trend of working from home but they are no longer the only ones. But if your employees get injured while working from home, should you expect a workers’ comp claim?

Recently, a Florida woman who works from home filed a workers’ comp claim after she tripped over her dog while reaching for a cup of coffee in her own kitchen during work hours. While this might seem like a simple issue, the case is now going before the Florida Supreme Court.

According to Law Shelf, “For an injury to be compensable under workers’ compensation law, it must be work-related. In many states, this means that the employee must prove that the injury both: 1) arose out of the employment, and 2) occurred in the course of employment.” These guidelines apply whether the employee works in an employer-provided office space or from their home.

What You Can Do

As a firm owner, one of the most important things you can do is to set guidelines and expectations for every aspect of your business. This includes having a designated work area and setting fixed work hours and break periods, if you have employees that work remotely, these guidelines and policies should also extend to them.

Additionally, your firm may want to consider providing training on how to properly set up an at-home workstation and then follow up as needed with in-home checks. Following these procedures may help your employees avoid an unnecessary injury and keep them from filing a workers comp claim to begin with.

children eating ice cream cones on a park bench

Two Things Your Teeth Want You to Avoid This Summer

Summer is finally here. This is the time of year where families all over the country can sit back, relax together, and enjoy the warm weather. But while you and your family are trying to keep cool, there are a few summer staples you should avoid in order to prevent tooth decay and the resulting costly dental procedures.

Fruity Drinks

No summer is complete without at least a few fruity drinks by the pool. And while the fruit may be good for you and help keep you hydrated in the summer heat, the excess sugar won’t do you any favors. Despite the main ingredient being fruits and/or veggies, smoothies can contain lots of hidden sugar which can wreak havoc on not just your waistline, but your teeth as well.

According to WebMD, “tooth decay is caused by bacteria that feeds on sugars from food and drinks. That bacteria — called plaque — can stick to your teeth, producing acids that eat through the enamel on your teeth.” So, while a fruity drink or smoothie may sound great, don’t forget that water can be just as refreshing.

Chewing Ice

When it comes to ice cubes, those frozen cubes are best left melting in your cup.

Chewing on ice may seem like a harmless zero-calorie way to keep cool but it can lead to enamel damage. Like all hard foods, chewing on ice cubes can cause chips and cracks to your teeth and create a passageway for bacteria to get in and cause infections.

Aside from the potential for dental damage, chewing or craving ice can also be a sign of a larger health concern such an iron deficiency, or an eating disorder.

Keeping Your Mouth Protected

When it comes to maintaining good oral health and protecting yourself from costly dental work, the best thing you can do is to get covered.

employee benefits book on a wooden desk with glasses succulent coffee and notebooks

Trending Employee Benefits That Companies Should Be Aware Of

The U.S. unemployment rate is now at its lowest levels since 1969. This strengthening of the American job market has given many workers the confidence to reassess their employment situations in a way that they may not have felt comfortable doing ten years ago.

Employers are realizing that it is becoming harder to attract top talent and keep them. Previous benefits packages such as PTO and 401(k) offerings don’t seem to be enough anymore. So many businesses are now tasked with developing new ways to find and retain good staff.

While a comfortable salary is nice, a growing number of workers are placing a higher value on voluntary benefits. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States ranks 7th in the world for Countries With the Worst Work-Life Balance. So the more companies do to make their employees’ lives easier outside of the workplace, the more appealing and valuable those jobs become.

These are some of the most sought-after benefits right now:

Identity Theft Protection

According to Javelin’s 2019 Identity Fraud Study, over 14.4 million people fell victim to identity fraud in 2018 and over 23 percent of victims were not reimbursed for personal expenses. As technology continues to evolve, protecting your identity has never been more important. With new reports of data hacks every month, it’s at the forefront of many minds. Offering identity-theft protection could give employees an invaluable benefit: peace of mind.

Student Loan Refinancing

At the start of 2019, over 44 million U.S. citizens owed more than $1.56 trillion in student loan debt – signaling the highest amount ever recorded. According to Forbes, “Student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category – behind only mortgage debt – and higher than both credit cards and auto loans.” For the majority, this level of debt will continue to weigh them down for decades making this a crisis that impacts more than just recent college graduates.

This has led many businesses to begin offering student loan benefits to their employees in the form of refinancing options – or even help to pay down some of their debt (usually a set amount over a period of years). Some businesses who have implemented this approach have seen increased employee retention rates.

Wellness

Providing your employees with the tools they need to maintain their overall physical health can benefit not only them but your business as well. As a result, many employers are choosing to invest in everything from gym memberships to telemedicine options for their employees.

While exercise is a great way to relieve stress and improve overall cognitive abilities such as learning and concentration, sometimes that isn’t enough to fight off common depression and anxiety symptoms.

Roughly 1 million workers are absent from their jobs every day because of stress. According to The American Institute of Stress, “Unanticipated absenteeism is estimated to cost American companies $602.00/worker/year and the price tag for large employers could approach $3.5 million annually.”

Improving the access and affordability of mental health services is something that could greatly benefit businesses and employees alike. Many telemedicine services, such as Teladoc, have ventured into the realm of mental health counseling. This gives employees an additional benefit while allowing them to access crucial mental and physical health services wherever and whenever they need.

professional woman on phone outside smiling

Knowing Your Options Outside of Open Enrollment

While the annual Open Enrollment period focuses on ACA-compliant individual major medical insurance, there are still other forms of insurance available for potential enrollees.

Knowing Your Options

According to healthinsurance.org, “ACA-compliant coverage refers to a major medical health insurance policy that conforms to the regulations set forth in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)…This means they must include coverage for the ten essential benefits with no lifetime or annual benefit maximums, and must adhere to the consumer protections built into the law.”

Unless you qualify for a special enrollment period, you cannot receive ACA-compliant individual health insurance coverage outside of the annual Open Enrollment Period, which typically runs from November 1st until December 15th of each year.

If you missed out on Open Enrollment but still need individual health insurance, you still have a few options available:

  1. COBRA

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events. Qualified individuals may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102 percent of the cost to the plan.”

  1. Qualifying Life Event (QLE)

There are certain life circumstances called Qualifying Life Events (QLEs) that can qualify you for a special enrollment period. Special enrollment periods allow you to obtain ACA-compliant health coverage outside of the annual Open Enrollment period for you and your eligible dependents. The most common QLEs pertain to:

  • Loss of health coverage
  • Changes in household
  • Changes in residence
  1. Non-ACA Compliant plans

Non-ACA compliant plans, also referred to as short-term medical plans, have recently become more appealing to a growing number of people due to their lower rates. According to the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, “Late last year (2017), President Trump issued an executive order directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to take steps to expand the availability of short-term health insurance policies, and a proposed regulation to increase the maximum coverage term under such policies was published in February.”

So, what separates the ACA-compliant health plans from the ones that are not? One of the biggest factors being the ACA’s ten essential health benefits. Non-ACA compliant plans do not need to adhere to the numerous rules and regulations laid out in the Affordable Care Act.

woman on smartphone surrounded by locks graphic img

5 Tips To Help You Protect Your Identity In 2019

Despite best efforts on behalf of businesses and consumers alike, cases of identity theft and fraud have continued to rise. In 2017 alone, an estimated 16.7 million individuals had their identities compromised, up 1.3 million from 2016 and 3.6 million from 2015, according to the 2018 Identity Fraud Study conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research.

While banks and retailers have taken steps to protect credit card information from being stolen (such as with EMV chips), many retailers still require customers to swipe – which eliminates the benefits of the EMV chip altogether.

Know Your Options

You may be feeling helpless when it comes to identity theft, but there are steps you can take to keep your information protected.

Tip #1: Freeze your credit

Thanks to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, there is no longer a fee associated with freezing your credit. This is one of the easiest ways you can protect your information without doing anything more than contacting the three major reporting bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. According to Experian, “when you freeze your credit report, you are stopping any of your personal data from being reported to lenders and creditors. Thus, in the event that a fraudster would try to use your Social Security number to apply for a credit card, that application would be rejected, as the bank would be unable to verify your credit score.”

If freezing isn’t for you, all three major credit bureaus offer mobile apps that allow you to lock and unlock your credit using your smartphone.

Tip #2: Update your passwords

The street you grew up on, your pet’s name, or the high school you graduated from are not hard to find out. Instead, consider a random series of letters, numbers, and special characters. Experts such as Perfect Passwords author Mark Burnett suggest coming up with a new secure password every six to twelve months.

Tip #3: Monitor your accounts

If you suspect your identity has been stolen, the faster you act the better. Many banks now monitor your accounts for you and will either text or call you if they suspect any fraudulent activity, but it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your accounts yourself. It’s important to read through every account charge and investigate anything you don’t recognize immediately.

Tip #4: Don’t leave a trail

How many credit card offers do you receive in the mail, and then simply throw away? According to NerdWallet, “Stolen mail is one of the easiest paths to a stolen identity.” If you haven’t already invested in a personal shredder, there are a number of models designed to help keep your identity safe and protected for less than $30.

Tip #5: DON’T CARRY YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY CARD EVERYWHERE

No one means to misplace their wallet, have their car broken into, or their purse stolen, but accidents happen. This is why it is never a good idea to carry your social security card with you at all times. According to Steven J.J. Weisman, Esq., an Amherst, Massachusetts-based college professor who specializes in white-collar crime, “A Social Security number is the most important piece of information that a criminal can use to make you a victim of identity theft so you shouldn’t carry it with you in your wallet, anyway.”

A better place to store your social security card may be at home, in a safe place, preferably under lock and key.

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