- Dental Radiographs (X-rays)
- Toothpaste Recommendations
- Does Your Child Grind His Teeth at Night? (Bruxism)
- Thumb Sucking
- When is the Best Time for Orthodontic Treatment?
- Adult Teeth Coming in Behind Baby Teeth
- Perinatal & Infant Oral Health
- Your Child's First Dental Visit: Establishing A "Dental Home"
- When Will My Baby Start Getting Teeth?
- Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (Early Childhood Caries)
- Sippy Cups
- Care of Your Child's Teeth
- Good Diet = Healthy Teeth
- How Do I Prevent Cavities?
- Seal Out Decay
- Mouth Guards
- Xylitol - Reducing Cavities
- Beware of Sports Drinks
Dental Radiographs (X-Rays)
Radiographs (X-Rays) are a vital and necessary part of your child’s dental diagnostic process. Without them, certain dental conditions can and will be missed. Radiographs detect much more than cavities. For example, radiographs may be needed to survey erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment. Radiographs allow dentists to diagnose and treat health conditions that cannot be detected during a clinical examination. If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is often more comfortable for your child and more affordable for you.
At our office, we recommend radiographs according to the specific needs of each child. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry also recommends radiographs prescribed to the individual child, which is typically every six months. Feel free to ask any questions regarding the frequency or type of radiographs we prescribe for your child.
Pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of their patients to radiation. With contemporary safeguards, the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray examination is extremely small. In fact, the dental radiographs represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem. Lead body aprons and shields will protect your child from unwanted exposure to other areas of the body. Today’s digital radiographic equipment filters out unnecessary radiation and restricts the x-ray beam to the area of interest.
Toothbrushing is one of the most important tasks for good oral health. We recommend your child use the toothpastes that most motivates them to brush their teeth. Many children have preferences on taste, consistency, or even cartoon characters on the box. We do recommend the toothpaste you choose to contain fluoride to assist in the prevention of cavities.
Remember, children should spit out toothpaste after brushing to avoid getting too much fluoride. Use a "smear" of toothpaste to brush the teeth of a child less than 2 years of age. For the 2-5 year old, dispense a "pea-size" amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your child’s toothbrushing.
The easiest way to do this is to sit down, place the child’s head in your lap or lay the child on a dressing table or the floor. Whatever position you use, be sure you can see into the child’s mouth easily.
Does Your Child Grind His Teeth At Night? (Bruxism)
Parents are often concerned about the nocturnal grinding of teeth (bruxism). Often, the first indication is the noise created by the child grinding on their teeth during sleep. The parent may also notice wear (teeth getting shorter) to the dentition. One theory as to the cause involves a psychological component. Factors such as stress due to a new environment, divorce, or changes at school can influence a child to grind his or her teeth. Another theory relates to pressure in the inner ear at night. If there are pressure changes (like in an airplane during take-off and landing, when people are chewing gum, etc. to equalize pressure) the child will grind by moving his jaw to relieve this pressure.
The majority of cases of pediatric bruxism do not require any treatment. If excessive wear of the teeth is present, a mouth guard (night guard) may be indicated. The negatives to a mouth guard are the possibility of choking if the appliance becomes dislodged during sleep and it may interfere with growth of the jaws.
The good news is most children outgrow bruxism. The grinding decreases between the ages 6-9 and children tend to stop grinding between ages 9-12. If you suspect bruxism, discuss this with our office.
Sucking is a natural reflex for all children. Infants and young children may use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers and other objects on which to suck. It may make them feel calm and happy, or provide a sense of security at difficult periods. Since thumb sucking is relaxing, it may induce sleep.
Although a sucking habit is a natural reflex, persistent sucking can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment. How intensely and how frequently a child sucks on objects will determine whether or not dental problems may result. Children who rest their thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs.
Children should cease thumb sucking as soon as possible to prevent changes in the orientation of the primary teeth. Usually, children stop between the ages of two and four. Peer pressure causes many school-aged children to stop.
Pacifiers should not be encouraged as a substitute for a thumb sucking habit, but the pacifier habit is usually easier to quit at an earlier age. They can affect the teeth essentially the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs. However, use of the pacifier can be controlled and modified more easily than the thumb or finger habit. If you have concerns about thumb sucking or use of a pacifier, consult our office.
A few suggestions to help your child get through thumb sucking:
- Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure. Focus on correcting the cause of anxiety, instead of the thumb sucking.
- Reward children when they refrain from sucking during difficult periods, such as when being separated from their parents.
- Our dental team can encourage children to stop sucking and explain what could happen if they continue.
- We also recommend the use of a clear liquid that can be painted on the fingernails called Mavala Stop. The bitter taste of Mavala discourages both thumb sucking and nail biting. You can purchase Mavala in a local store or online.
When is the Best Time for Orthodontic Treatment?
Developing malocclusions, or bad bites, can be recognized as early as 2-3 years of age. Sometimes, early steps can be taken to reduce the need for major orthodontic treatment at a later age.
Our dental team assesses the occlusion (bite) of your child at every check-up and monitors changes between visits. We are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding your child’s developing occlusion and will assist you in finding an orthodontist to best meet your child’s needs if necessary.
Adult Teeth Coming in Behind Baby Teeth
This is a very common occurrence with children, usually the result of a lower, primary (baby) tooth not falling out when the permanent tooth is coming in. Please contact our office as soon as possible to schedule a visit so we can discuss your child’s treatment options.
Early Infant Oral Care
Perinatal & Infant Oral Health
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that all pregnant women receive oral healthcare and counseling during pregnancy. Research has shown evidence that periodontal disease can increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. Talk to your doctor or dentist about ways you can prevent periodontal disease during pregnancy.
Additionally, mothers with poor oral health may be at a greater risk of passing the bacteria which causes cavities to their young children. Mother's should follow these simple steps to decrease the risk of spreading cavity-causing bacteria:
- Visit your dentist regularly.
- Brush and floss on a daily basis to reduce bacterial plaque.
- Eat a proper diet, with a reduction of beverages and foods high in sugar & starch.
- Use a fluoridated toothpaste and rinse every night with an alcohol-free, over-the-counter mouth rinse with .05 % sodium fluoride in order to reduce plaque levels.
- Don't share utensils, cups or food which can cause the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria to your children.
- Use of xylitol chewing gum (4 pieces per day by the mother) can decrease a child’s caries rate.
Your Child's First Dental Visit: Establishing A "Dental Home"
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Dental Association (ADA), and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) all recommend establishing a "Dental Home" for your child by one year of age. Children who have a dental home are more likely to receive appropriate preventive and routine oral health care.
The Dental Home is intended to provide a place other than the Emergency Room for parents.
You can make the first visit to the dentist enjoyable and positive. If old enough, your child should be informed of the visit and told that the dentist and their staff will explain all procedures and answer any questions. The less to-do concerning the visit, the better.
It is best if you refrain from using words around your child that might cause unnecessary fear, such as needle, pull, drill or hurt. Pediatric dental offices make a practice of using words that convey the same message, but are pleasant and non-frightening to the child.
When Will My Baby Start Getting Teeth?
Teething, the process of baby (primary) teeth coming through the gums into the mouth, is variable among individual babies. Some babies get their teeth earlier and some get them later. In general, the first baby teeth to appear are usually the lower front (anterior) teeth and they usually begin erupting between the age of 6-8 months.
See "Eruption of Your Child’s Teeth" for more details.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (Early Childhood Caries)
One serious form of decay among young children is baby bottle tooth decay. This condition is caused by frequent and long exposures of an infant’s teeth to liquids that contain sugar. Among these liquids are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice, sodas and other sweetened drinks.
Putting a baby to bed for a nap or at night with a bottle other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay. Sweet liquid pools around the child’s teeth giving plaque bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. If you must give the baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, it should contain only water. If your child won't fall asleep without the bottle and its usual beverage, gradually dilute the bottle's contents with water over a period of two to three weeks.
After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. The easiest way to do this is to sit down, place the child’s head in your lap or lay the child on a dressing table or the floor. Whatever position you use, be sure you can see into the child’s mouth easily.
Sippy cups should be used as a training tool from the bottle to a cup and should be discontinued as soon as possible. If your child uses a sippy cup throughout the day, fill the sippy cup with water only (except at mealtimes). By filling the sippy cup with liquids that contain sugar (including milk, fruit juice, sports drinks, sodas etc.) and allowing a child to drink from it throughout the day, it soaks the child’s teeth in cavity causing bacteria.It takes the mouth approximately twenty minutes to naturally cleanse sugary liquids from the teeth with saliva; therefore, every sip of the sugar containing liquid coats the teeth with sugar for approximately twenty minutes.
High frequency of sipping is more dangerous to the tooth than high volume of liquids. This is why we recommend only giving sugar-containing liquids at mealtime. At any other time during the day, your child should only receive water to prevent the frequency of sugar on the teeth.
Seal Out Decay
A sealant is a protective coating that is applied to the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the back teeth, where four out of five cavities in children are found. The sealant acts as a barrier to food, plaque, and acid, thus protecting the decay-prone areas of the teeth.
Before Sealant Applied
After Sealant Applied
Fluoride is an element that has been shown to be beneficial to teeth. Fluoride is able to replenish the minerals that make teeth strong, which helps in the prevention of cavities and can, in some cases, reverse the process of cavities becoming larger. However, too much fluoride can be detrimental to the teeth. Excessive fluoride ingestion by preschool-aged children can lead to dental fluorosis, which is a chalky white to even brown discoloration of the permanent teeth. Many children often get more fluoride than their parents realize from various sources. Being aware of a child’s potential sources of fluoride can help parents prevent the possibility of dental fluorosis.
Some of these sources are:
- Too much fluoridated toothpaste at an early age.
- The inappropriate use of fluoride supplements.
- Hidden sources of fluoride in the child’s diet.
When a child begins to participate in recreational activities and organized sports, injuries can occur. A properly fitted mouth guard is an important piece of athletic gear that can help protect your child’s smile. Mouthguards should be used during any activity that could result in a blow to the face or mouth.
Mouth guards help prevent broken teeth, and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw. A properly fitted mouth guard will stay in place while your child is wearing it, making it easy for them to talk and breathe.
Ask our office about custom and store-bought mouth protectors.
Xylitol - Reducing Cavities
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes the benefits of xylitol on the oral health of infants, children, adolescents, and persons with special health care needs.
The use of XYLITOL GUM by mothers (2-3 times per day) starting 3 months after delivery and until the child was 2 years old, has proven to reduce cavities in the child up to 70% by the time the child was 5 years old.
Studies using xylitol as either a sugar substitute or a small dietary addition have demonstrated a dramatic reduction in new tooth decay, along with some reversal of existing dental caries. Xylitol provides additional protection that enhances all existing prevention methods. This xylitol effect is long-lasting and possibly permanent. Low decay rates persist even years after the trials have been completed.
Xylitol is widely distributed throughout nature in small amounts. Some of the best sources are fruits, berries, mushrooms, lettuce, hardwoods, and corn cobs. One cup of raspberries contains less than one gram of xylitol.
Studies suggest xylitol intake that consistently produces positive results ranged from 4-20 grams per day, divided into 3-7 consumption periods. Higher results did not result in greater reduction and may lead to diminishing results. Similarly, consumption frequency of less than 3 times per day showed no effect.
To find gum or other products containing xylitol, try visiting your local health food store or search the Internet to find products containing 100% xylitol.
Beware of Sports Drinks
Due to the high sugar content and acids in sports drinks, they have erosive potential and the ability to dissolve even fluoride-rich enamel, which can lead to cavities.
To minimize dental problems, children should avoid sports drinks as much as possible and hydrate with water before, during and after sports. If sports drinks are consumed:
- reduce the frequency and contact time
- swallow immediately and do not swish them around the mouth
- neutralize the effect of sports drinks by alternating sips of water with the drink
- rinse mouthguards only in water