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Ask the Expert: Pregnancy tests, smoking and toothpaste

Upstate Parent gets answers to those health and wellness questions you’ve always wanted to ask. You ask us, and we ask local experts to weigh in with some answers. Have a burning question? Let us know! This month’s questions are answered by several local experts. Remember that these answers are the opinions of these specific experts and not intended as medical advice. Always consult your personal doctor about your health.

Q: I want my husband to quit smoking before we start a family. What can I do to encourage him to quit?

A: Quitting smoking will be great for the health of your family. Secondhand smoke during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Babies living with smokers are more likely to die of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome. Children are more likely to have respiratory and ear infections, hearing problems, and asthma. Remember that quitting is very difficult, and he may be more irritable than usual. Be supportive. Help him recognize his cravings and triggers, and help him find other activities to do when he wants to smoke. Encourage him to see his doctor or call 800-QUIT-NOW for assistance.

— Dr. Georgia Ragonetti-Zebell, Mountain View OB/GYN, Easley/co-founder of

Q: At what age should I put toothpaste on my child’s toothbrush? Should I use toothpaste specifically for children?

A: I don’t recommend any specific toothpaste other than training paste if parents desire. Until a child can be trusted to spit, they will obviously ingest the paste. The only difference in training toothpaste (such as Oral B Stages) is that there is no fluoride, so if your child decides to dine upon the whole tube, ingestion will never be an issue. Once they can spit, a small pea size amount at most is indicated. The only difference in any toothpaste for kids and for adults is flavor, and maybe polishing or whitening aids, which are not warranted for your child anyway.

— Dr. Mark Muncy, Pediatric Dentistry, Greer

Q: I am trying to get pregnant. How early can I take a pregnancy test and hope for accuracy?

A: Home pregnancy tests work by detecting the pregnancy hormone, hCG, in the urine. The hormone levels will begin to rise after the pregnancy implants into the uterus.

Therefore, it is best to take the test when the hormone levels are high. If you have regular periods, it is best to wait until the day after you expect your period, and take the test first thing in the morning. It is possible to test earlier, a few days before your missed period, but you will be more likely to have a false negative. If it is positive, congratulations!

— Dr. Georgia Ragonetti-Zebell, Mountain View OB/GYN, Easley/co-founder of

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