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Get Straight A’s in Brushing and Flossing

Good oral hygiene habits in young children are important for many reasons. An excellent dental self-care routine can lay the foundation for a lifetime of healthy teeth. But does good oral health affect children’s lives in other ways? Studies show that children’s oral health status actually influences both their school attendance and performance. Careful attention to proper oral hygiene can, in fact, improve overall academic success.

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health looked at 1,495 socioeconomically disadvantaged schoolchildren in the Los Angeles area. The researchers had previously found that 73% of these children had tooth decay. Students who reported tooth pain generally had lower grade point averages than did those without tooth pain. The study also showed a correlation between tooth problems and absenteeism, with elementary schoolchildren missing an average of 2.1 school days and high school students missing an average of 2.3 days annually because of dental problems. Poor oral health in children led to missed work days for their parents, too, who had to take off an average of 2.5 days of work per year to care for their children’s dental issues.

These findings are not isolated. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health that examined records of 2,183 North Carolina schoolchildren from all backgrounds found that students with poor oral health status were 3 times more likely to miss school because of dental pain than were children with better oral health. The study also found that children who missed school because of dental pain had poorer academic performances, but students who missed school for routine dental care did not.

These discoveries provide more reasons to impart healthy dental habits to your children. In addition to brushing at least twice a day and flossing once a day, a key component to optimal oral health is regular dental cleanings and examinations. Whenever it has been 6 months since your child’s last checkup, call our office and make an appointment. It might just boost those grades!

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Increased Tooth Decay in Children with ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has become a more widely recognized diagnosis, especially in children. The good news is that doctors working hard to treat this condition have found success with various medications and therapies. But many treatments come with a risk of side effects. ADHD medications often carry specific dental risks. For that reason, parents of children with ADHD need to be aware of certain dental issues commonly connected with ADHD treatment.

ADHD medications may have the following side effects:

  • xerostomia (dry mouth)
  • bruxism (teeth grinding)
  • inflammation of the gums and soft tissue in the mouth
  • difficulty swallowing

While none of these conditions is guaranteed to occur, children with ADHD—whether medicated or not—are at an increased risk for them. Thus, in order to ensure that your children receive proper dental treatment, you need to tell us about any diagnoses they may have and the medications they take. Be proactive by taking these steps:

  • Monitor your children’s home dental care routine.
  • Make sure your children do not eat again after brushing their teeth at night.
  • Use a 2-minute timer to make sure your children brush for a sufficient amount of time.
  • Minimize your children’s sugar intake—avoid stocking your house with candy and serving a lot of sugary snacks or desserts.

Because children with ADHD are at elevated risk for dental problems, schedule appointments at our office on a regular basis. We will examine your child’s teeth and monitor any conditions related to ADHD-specific behaviors and medications.

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Apps and Games for Dental Fun

Just how smart is your smartphone? When it’s loaded with fun apps that encourage your child to brush better, floss regularly and choose foods more consciously, it’s quite smart indeed! Interactive apps and games teach children about dental health and reinforce the importance of keeping their teeth clean while having some fun in the process. Here are some apps (for smartphones and other devices) that promote good dental health choices.

  • Toothsavers. How do you defeat an evil sorceress? When her wicked ways threaten a kingdom’s healthy mouths with cavities, use a toothbrush—specifically, by brushing the teeth (for 2 minutes at a time) of each fairy tale character. Your child can unlock new characters with successful bouts of brushing. The app also has real-world features to make keeping track of brushing time more fun. Available at the iTunes store and Google Play.
  • Monster Mouth DDS. Monsters need oral care, too! Play dentist to Dracula and nine other friends with specific goals in mind—for instance, protecting Count Drac from garlic odors with breath spray (and proper plaque prevention and removal, of course). Available for Android and iOS.
  • Tiny Dentist. Imagine your 6-year-old learning what a tooth extraction is—and performing it him- or herself. That and many more dental procedures are part of this colorful app that lets a child play dentist in a whole new way. Available for iOS.
  • Disney Magic Timer. Characters from the Disney and Star Wars realms keep your child brushing with encouraging digital stickers and milestone badges. Who would have foreseen Belle and Darth Vader teaming up for good oral health? Affiliated with Crest/Oral-B. Available at the iTunes store and Google Play.
  • My Bright Smile. Incorporating five different games, such as “Swipe the Sweets,” this app uses music to encourage brushing for an appropriate amount of time, flossing daily and using proper techniques. Affiliated with Colgate-Palmolive. Available at the iTunes store and Google Play.
  • Brush DJ. Because this app works with music from your own devices or streaming services, children can combine a timing game with their favorite tunes (and color schemes, to boot). Available at the iTunes store and Google Play.

Have you discovered other electronic gadgets or games that help your child maintain his or her oral health? Please let us know—we love to learn, too!

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Soothing Your Baby’s Teething Pain

Parents can’t stand to watch their children suffer, and a baby’s pain and sleeplessness when those first teeth push up against tender gums can be almost unbearable. You can see the irritation and swelling but are not sure how to help the situation. What can you do? Here are six suggestions to help relieve your baby’s misery and put yourself at ease.

  • Gently rub the swollen areas on your baby’s gums with your clean fingers.
  • Offer your baby teethers—items such as chilled (not frozen) rings and rubber animals. The sensation of biting down can help reduce the irritation; just make sure the object is safe to put in your baby’s mouth. Sometimes, a cold, wet washcloth does the trick.
  • Give your infant hard vegetables (e.g., cucumbers or carrots) to gnaw on, but keep a close watch because these items may pose a choking hazard.
  • As long as no teeth have broken through yet, apply the rounded edge of a cold, refrigerated spoon (don’t use freezer items) to your baby’s gums.
  • If your baby is able to eat solids, consider giving him or her cold, gooey foods such as applesauce or yogurt.
  • Over-the-counter pain medications can be helpful, but do not administer them without your pediatrician’s approval.

Treating teething pain during the day is one thing, but comforting a sleepless baby at night can be more challenging. Make sure that your baby’s sleeplessness is actually caused by teething and not something else—hunger, perhaps, or an ear infection. If you are certain that teething pain is the culprit, try one of the suggestions on this list to relax your baby.

Our staff, along with your child’s pediatrician, should be kept up-to-date on your baby’s teething status. Once teeth start coming in, schedule regular appointments with us to make sure your baby grows up with a healthy smile.

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Fact or Fiction? Dental Myths Debunked

Even health professionals occasionally get a fact or two wrong when it comes to caring for teeth. Dental myths abound, especially on the Internet, and are, unfortunately, shared generously. What’s more, the rumors that can adversely affect your health often sound the most believable. To help you sort dental fact from fiction, let’s look at some of the most persistent falsehoods:

  • Because baby teeth will fall out, they aren’t very important. Decay in baby (also called primary) teeth is, in fact, dangerous. Tooth decay can spread to the permanent teeth that will eventually replace them. If a cavity causes a primary tooth to fall out too early, the spacing sequence of the permanent teeth may be altered, causing them to come in crooked or crowded.
  • Brush your teeth right after eating. Children (and adults) should actually wait 20 to 60 minutes after eating before they brush. Consuming foods with any sort of acid temporarily softens tooth enamel, and brushing right away can scrub away that softened enamel. A good option (for children who are old enough) is to chew sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating to neutralize the acid and return enamel to normal.
  • Rinse your mouth right after brushing. Children (and grown-ups) should not rinse their mouths with water immediately after brushing their teeth. While it may seem counterintuitive, rinsing too soon (within 30 minutes after brushing) decreases the maximum effectiveness of the fluoride in toothpaste.
  • Fruit and fruit juices are much better for teeth than candy and soda. Yes, fruit can be packed with nutrients and healthy fiber, but many are also full of sugar, which is why, to many children, they’re more attractive than vegetables. Learn about sugar content—berries and peaches have less sugar than grapes and pineapple, for instance—to help keep cavities at bay. Popular favorites like apple and orange juices are filled with sugar; we recommend milk and water as your child’s primary beverages.
  • If “soft teeth” run in the family, cavities are inevitable. “Soft teeth” (teeth that are more susceptible to tooth decay) do not exist. Cavities are caused by bacteria, which get sustenance from food residue. Even if many of your family members suffer from tooth decay, regular brushing and flossing will go far to help your child avoid the same fate.

It can be tough sometimes to separate fact from fiction. Please call us between visits with any questions about your child’s oral health or habits, or to find out the truth about the latest dental “fact” you read or heard.

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Thumb-sucking, Nail Biting and Your Child’s Teeth

Thumb-sucking and nail biting are common habits among children. But just because the tendency to put things in the mouth is common does not make it harmless. While there are numerous signs that these chewing and suckling impulses can be harmful to children’s teeth, recent studies have suggested there may be some benefits, too. Although that might seem confusing, it shouldn’t be if you know what to look for when caring for your child’s teeth.

The benefits
Recent research has suggested that nail biting, thumb-sucking and other fixations that involve putting the hands in the mouth can lead to reduced severity of allergies. These findings are supported by the “hygiene hypothesis,” which suggests that early exposure to tiny particles and microorganisms can actually strengthen the immune system as children grow into adulthood. Given how miserable bad allergies can be, this is a positive finding. However…

The drawbacks
Thumb-sucking, nail biting and other mouth-affecting no-nos, such as opening plastic packaging with the teeth, can move or damage your child’s teeth. Nail biting is also associated with higher plaque levels, which can lead to cavities and tooth decay. After all, allowing more microorganisms into your child’s mouth to boost his or her resistance to allergens allows harmful bacteria to enter, too.

Can I get the best of both worlds?
Yes, with proper dental care. Put simply, if your child is hooked on thumb-sucking or nail biting, you will have to watch his or her dental health habits more closely. Take pictures of your child’s teeth periodically to see if they are moving. Even the slightest movement of the baby teeth could have a long-term effect on tooth development. Also make sure that your children practice excellent dental care at home to ensure that whatever bacteria or other harmful particles get into their mouth are removed as quickly as possible.

If your child has strong thumb-sucking or nail biting impulsions, tell us during your next regularly scheduled checkup. We’ll keep a close watch for any negative impact these habits might have on your child’s dental health.

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