Spring into Action for Allergies

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” asked the poet Shelley. After 3 months of darkness, the blooming flowers, the blossoming trees and the green grass are welcome signs of light and warmth. But along with the flowers, trees and grass come clouds of pollen and other allergens that trigger spring sniffles and congestion. And those spring allergies can adversely affect your children’s dental health.

Congestion comes from excess mucus. The body produces mucus all the time—it serves many functions that keep us healthy. But pollen and other allergens can send mucus production into overdrive, causing the sinus cavities to swell. Sometimes, those swollen sinus cavities, located right above the roof of the mouth, press on the nerves in your children’s upper back teeth. And that may lead to toothache.

Spring allergies can trigger other oral health issues, too. When children suffer from stuffy noses, they tend to breathe through their mouths, which may lead to a bad case of dry mouth. Not only is dry mouth uncomfortable but it also decreases the amount of saliva washing away bacteria and food particles from the teeth. Worse, many of the antihistamines you may give your children to relieve their allergy symptoms list dry mouth as a side effect.

How can you protect your children’s teeth during allergy season? Try these tips:

  • Keep your children hydrated. Drinking lots of water counteracts dry mouth and flushes away excess mucus.
  • Have your children gargle with salt water. Gargling with a tablespoon of salt dissolved in a glass of warm water helps clear the sinuses, while minimizing harmful bacteria.
  • Maintain your children’s daily oral hygiene regimen. Make sure they brush at least twice daily and floss once a day.

The only way to know whether your children’s tooth pain is caused by congestion or something else is to have us check it out. Reach out to us for an appointment. If it’s congestion, we’ll tell you. If it’s something else, we’ll treat it. Either way, we’ll take care of the toothache right away.

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Are “Healthy” Foods Always Tooth Healthy?

Health food has become a massive industry, and marketers work hard to convince you that their products are healthy. But “healthy” can mean a lot of different things. Just because something is low in calories or free of artificial ingredients does not necessarily make it a wise choice for your children’s general or dental health. Below are four seemingly healthy options that may actually be harmful to your children’s teeth.

Citrus fruits and drinks. While oranges and orange juice might seem like healthy alternatives to candy and soda, remember that citrus contains high levels of sugar and acid that can wear away tooth enamel. Frequent exposure to acidic food and drinks leaves children more susceptible to tooth decay over time.

Sports drinks. Marketers may have convinced you that the best way to hydrate is with a sports drink. But similar to citrus juices, these products contain lots of sugar and acid, which are not good for your children’s dental or general health.

Diet soda. With citrus drinks and sports drinks off the table, you might think that a diet soda, with zero calories and sugar, is a safe option. But diet sodas still contain acid. A recent study from the University of Michigan found that the erosive effects of diet soda on tooth enamel were on a par with those of regular soda.

Dried fruits. When it comes to snacking, you might reach for dried fruits, because fruits are healthy, right? Yes and no. The problem with dried fruits is that they are sticky and contain concentrated amounts of sugar. That’s not a good combination, because sticky, sugary foods tend to linger on the teeth and gums for long periods of time, fostering the growth of decay-causing bacteria.

Water, dairy products and fresh vegetables are much better choices for your children’s dental health. We know, however, that sugary, sticky or acidic snacks and drinks are sometimes unavoidable. Whenever that is the case, be sure to have your children brush their teeth about 20 minutes after eating, or rinse with water if brushing is not an option.

Do you have questions or need ideas for healthier snacks? We’ll be happy to discuss healthy and not-so-healthy food and drink choices in more detail at your children’s next visits.

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The Teething Trials of Eruption Cysts

One day, you notice a rather odd—even frightening—bluish or purplish bump on your teething baby’s gumline. Your first instinct might be to wonder how she injured herself. Maybe the cold teething ring was too hard? Maybe she fell and you somehow didn’t notice? The most likely culprit is actually something called an eruption cyst.

An eruption cyst, as the name suggests, is related to the eruption of a new tooth through an infant’s sensitive gum tissue. Considering the sharpness of new teeth and the delicacy of the gums, you might find it surprising that these cysts, which can also be categorized as bruises or hematomas, aren’t more common.

Here’s how an eruption cyst develops: Before you ever see them, each one of your child’s primary, or “baby,” teeth is growing within her jawbone in a protective fluid-filled enclosure. Generally beginning at age 4 to 7 months, these teeth begin to emerge, one or two at a time, starting with the bottom front incisors. The top (or crown) erupts first, pushing the fluid-filled enclosure to the surface. If the fluid within mixes with blood as the process continues, you’ll see a translucent, colored lesion—the eruption cyst.

Usually, all a parent needs to do is keep an eye on the cyst. Teething babies may be cranky and have tough nights, but teething does not cause diarrhea or coughing. The presence or absence of eruption cysts doesn’t change that. (If your baby shows general signs of illness and has a rectal temperature of 100.4°F [38°C] or higher, consult your pediatrician.)

In rare instances, the cyst gets in the way of the erupting tooth, so you need to let us know if a cyst has lasted for several days but the crown of the tooth is not yet visible. In such cases, we can perform a minor procedure to help Mother Nature along.

Should you have questions or concerns as those tiny teeth emerge, especially if accompanied by an eruption cyst, let us know at your next appointment. Remember, baby’s first dental visit should take place by their first birthday or no later than 6 months after the first tooth emerges. And although it may not seem like it now, those sleepless teething nights will pass.

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Help Your Children Ace Their Dental Exams

School-age children are often concerned about upcoming tests and quizzes. Of course, passing these examinations requires preparation—and a dental examination is no different. When you bring your child to our office for a cleaning and checkup, you are probably eager to hear us say, “Well done, no cavities!” But for this to happen, you and your child must work between visits to keep teeth and gums healthy.

At this point, you probably know the basics: brush at least twice daily, floss every day and schedule an appointment at least twice a year for a checkup and cleaning. To better ensure that your child aces the next dental examination, consider the following additional tips:

  • Focus on brushing technique and timing. We recommend that people of all ages brush their teeth for a full 2 minutes each time, angling the brush 45° toward the gumline and using short back-and-forth strokes. When was the last time you set a timer for yourself or your child? Chances are, your child—and you—are not brushing for a full 2 minutes. Take some time to review brushing technique with your child, and use a timer as a reminder of how long 2 minutes actually is.
  • Eat healthy foods. Sugary snacks and sodas incite the growth of bacteria in the mouth. Encourage your child to eat leafy greens and dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. These not only reduce the growth of bacteria but also strengthen dental enamel and promote good physical health.
  • Rinse after meals. Food tends to stick around in the mouth longer than it should. Any time your child cannot brush after a meal, encourage them to drink some water afterward and swish it around to wash away food particles.
  • Chew sugar-free gum. Just like water, saliva rinses away food particles. Sugar-free gum helps stimulate saliva flow, which makes chewing it after meals an effective cavity-prevention tool. Look for gum that contains xylitol, a natural sugar that may actually help prevent tooth decay.

A healthy smile is important. Monitor your child’s oral hygiene habits so you can both hear good news after every checkup. Regular visits are key, too. Whenever it has been more than 6 months since your child’s last exam, call us for an appointment. We’ll be happy to review these tips with you and your child to ensure a lifetime of healthy smiles.

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Dental Care for Children with Down Syndrome

When it comes to your child’s dental care, Down syndrome may present a series of challenges. Several developmental and medical conditions, as well as differences in learning and behavior, make for a variety of situations that can compromise your child’s oral health. Fortunately, both parent and dentist can take several precautionary steps and use some practical techniques to reduce these risks substantially.

First you will need to know what to look for. Some common dental health problems for children with Down syndrome include the following:

  • Taurodontism: Common among children with Down syndrome, this condition may cause abnormally large tooth crowns at the expense of the roots underneath. Individuals with taurodontism may also suffer from thin enamel, the material that covers and insulates teeth, making the teeth unusually sensitive to pain, pressure and temperature. This also makes tooth decay especially dangerous, because the pulp inside your child’s teeth is more likely to be exposed. When not discovered quickly, taurodontism can cause rapid tooth loss; therefore, it is important that we check for the condition and manage it carefully.
  • Hypodontia: This condition, also common among children with Down syndrome, occurs when a child’s teeth fail to develop. Identified through x-rays, this condition can be treated with retainers or partial dentures.
  • Tooth rotation: Like hypodontia, tooth rotation is a developmental issue that often occurs in children with Down syndrome. Quite simply, teeth emerge incorrectly rotated. These teeth generally can be treated with braces, although, depending on the nature of the rotation, other measures may be necessary. Tooth rotations in children with Down syndrome typically vary between 45° and 90°, effectively causing some teeth to grow sideways.

While these are some of the dental conditions seen in children with Down syndrome, they are not the only ones. It is essential that all children make regular visits to the dentist, and children with Down syndrome are no exception. Make space on your calendar today so we can treat any of your child’s dental issues as soon as they may arise.

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How Eating Disorders May Affect Your Teen’s Oral Health

Nearly 10 million Americans live with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. While these disorders can have serious, detrimental effects on systemic health, personal relationships and school performance, they can also harm teeth and gums, making oral hygiene even more critical than it already is. And, if your teen has an eating disorder, we may be among the first to notice the signs.

People who suffer from anorexia or bulimia may experience the following effects on their oral health:

  • The semi-starvation of both anorexia and bulimia deprives the body of necessary nutrients. As a result, gums and other soft tissues in the mouth may be more prone to bleeding. Salivary glands may swell, leading to chronic dry mouth.
  • The nutritional deficiencies that result from eating disorders—specifically the lack of calcium, iron, vitamin D and the B vitamins—increase the risk of tooth decay, gum disease and mouth sores. Over the long term, these deficiencies can also result in osteoporosis and degenerative arthritis in the jaw.
  • The frequent vomiting associated with bulimia brings stomach acid in contact with the teeth, which can damage enamel and make teeth prone to decay and chipping, and more sensitive to heat and cold. Excessive brushing may aggravate this condition further.
  • Recurrent vomiting can also lead to redness, scratches and cuts inside the mouth, including the roof of the mouth. Because healthy behaviors rarely affect this area of the mouth, this may be a sign to us that your teen has an eating disorder.

Should you discover that your teen has an eating disorder, you need to get them professional medical help right away. In addition, don’t hesitate to call us for an appointment so we can evaluate your teen’s oral health and treat any conditions of the mouth. Regular brushing and flossing are important, as are professional cleanings and checkups.

Know that our office is a safe space for your teenager to openly discuss any struggles they may have with food. Overcoming these disorders is a process, and we are here to ensure optimal dental health during that time.

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