Tooth Decay = Poor School Performance

If your child has been getting poor grades in school, it just might be that his or her teeth are to blame. Recent studies indicate that children who experience oral health problems such as tooth decay are more likely to have poor academic performance, in part because of an increase in the number of absences they experience.

According to a report from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office, oral health issues result in the loss of 51 million school hours each year. Studies have shown that those missed hours can have a significant effect on overall school performance. In a 2011 North Carolina study, researchers found that children with oral health problems were three times as likely to miss school as their peers with good oral health. They also found that children who suffer infection and discomfort due to oral health problems had lower grades compared with children who had routine dental care—even if that routine care resulted in absences from school. Another recent study of 1,500 students in California found that children with tooth pain were four times more likely to have a lower grade point average than were children who did not experience dental discomfort.

Beyond the issues of poor grades and missed school days, research has shown that children with poor oral health are more likely to have tooth and mouth problems as adults, which can wind up affecting their job performance. According to Dr. Paul Reggiardo, a pediatric dentist and public policy advocate for the California Society of Pediatric Dentistry, “There is no better predictor of future dental health than looking at past dental health. [Children] who have had dental decay in the past are the most likely to have dental decay in the future.”

Parents who want to maximize their child’s chances of success now and in the future need to make sure their child’s oral health is a priority. Regular examinations and preventive treatments are the first lines of defense in preventing decay, gum disease and other problems that can plague both children and adults.

If your child has missed school due to tooth or mouth pain, don’t delay: Call us today and schedule an appointment so your child can get the care needed to feel better and do better—academically, socially and in every area of life.

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Keep Your ADHD Child Decay Free

Keeping your child as free of cavities as possible is always a partnership between you, the parent, and us, the dental professionals. This is especially true when your child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As a team, we’ll use the widely recognized tell–show–do approach, with its brief, clear, step-by-step instructions, to teach and reinforce proper toothbrushing habits.

Product choices are important. Some children with ADHD don’t like foaming toothpastes; for these children, a toothpaste without sodium lauryl sulfate would be a good choice. Your child may strongly prefer a manual or electric toothbrush; let him or her select. If your child responds to rewards for consistent good dental hygiene habits, use stickers or small change, instead of carbohydrate-filled snacks or sugary drinks.

In addition, ADHD medications can contribute to decreased saliva production, causing dry mouth (xerostomia). Since decay-causing bacteria tend to flourish in the absence of saliva, tell us if your child has xerostomia, so we can discuss management techniques (sugar-free gum, mouth rinses, etc.). Because of xerostomia—and because children with ADHD tend to “graze” and eat more times a day than usual—it is a good idea to have your child’s teeth cleaned by us more frequently than twice a year.

During a cleaning, we will take special care to make the experience as pleasant and unthreatening as possible for your child. We will discuss your child’s current ADHD status with you beforehand. Please make an appointment for the time of day when your child is usually at his or her best, and during a period when he or she is taking medication. We will schedule a longer-than-usual time slot for your child’s cleaning.

Because ADHD can challenge ideal dental hygiene practices, it’s especially important to consider sealants and fluoride treatments for your child. By adding an extra level of protection, these treatments can help to make up for lapses in maintaining oral health.

We are well acquainted with children with ADHD and want to help your child stay as cavity-free as possible. If it’s time for your child’s appointment, schedule it now. We’ll work together to make the appointment a successful experience.

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Balance Cavity Causers with Cavity Fighters

During infancy, children go through a stage when they try to stick into their mouths almost anything they can get their hands on. While children eventually learn the difference between plastic blocks and actual food, that doesn’t mean everything that’s edible belongs in their mouths. Some foods help children’s teeth grow healthy and strong. Others rot them away. It’s important to know the difference.

Cavity Fighters—Consume a Lot of These!

  • Fluoridated water: Easily available in most areas and an essential part of a child’s diet, fluoridated water helps prevent cavities and keeps your child hydrated.
  • Milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy foods: The calcium, phosphates and vitamin D found in dairy products all promote strong and healthy teeth. Even better, calcium can actually form a barrier on top of the tooth that protects it from acids that cause cavities.
  • Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables: These versatile foods are not only good for your child’s mouth but they also serve as an effective alternative to some of the “cavity causers” listed below. Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables stimulate the flow of saliva that washes away the acids and food particles that lead to cavities. And as a bonus, these foods will freshen your child’s breath.
  • Xylitol gum: As a sweetener in sugar-free chewing gum, xylitol shows great promise for cavity prevention because the bacteria present in the mouth cannot use xylitol to grow. With xylitol use, fewer decay-causing bacteria survive on tooth surfaces, less plaque forms and the level of acids attacking the tooth surfaces decreases. When purchasing sugar-free gum, check the list of ingredients. If xylitol is listed first, the amount will be at decay-preventing levels.

Cavity Causers—Avoid These!

  • Sugar-sweetened chewing gum, caramel, taffy and other sticky candies: Not only do these foods contain lots of sugars but they actually stick to your child’s teeth and cause his or her mouth to fill with acidic bacteria that rot the teeth.
  • Soft drinks and fruit juices: These beverages are full of sugar and take a long time to drink, thus remaining in your child’s mouth long enough to create an ideal environment for cavities to develop.
  • Citrus fruits: Citrus is incredibly acidic. And acid eats teeth. Don’t let your child suck on these fruits or keep them in his or her mouth for long periods.

Being smart about what your child eats is important, but it’s not enough. If you want to do everything you can to fight cavities, bring your child in to visit us on a regular basis.

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Soothing Your Baby’s Teething Blues

Think back to the last time you had a toothache. The soreness, the pain…it probably wasn’t the best day of your life. Now imagine experiencing discomfort like that for months on end. For some babies, this is how teething feels.

Your baby’s teeth begin to emerge when he or she is around 6 months old, and the whole set of 20 primary teeth usually will be in by the age of 3 years. Some babies aren’t bothered by the process, but for others, teething can be miserable—especially when the molars erupt from the gums. Symptoms such as fussiness, drooling, rash, refusing to eat, and gnawing on anything and everything in sight typically begin three to five days before the tooth erupts.

Luckily, there are ways to relieve your child’s discomfort (and yours, because having a fussy, miserable baby isn’t fun for anyone). Try the following to make teething easier for everyone:

  • Using a clean finger, gently massage your baby’s gums for a few minutes. Apply pressure to the top of the gum line—this counters the pressure of the teeth coming in from below and helps soften the gum tissues.
  • Offer solid silicone teething rings or other appropriate toys for your baby to chew on. You can put these in the refrigerator for a quick chill beforehand—the cold will soothe your baby’s gums. Avoid freezing the teething toy because icy teething rings can stick to the roof of the baby’s mouth and cause even more pain when you pry it off.
  • If your baby is over 6 months old and eating solid food, try giving him or her rice rusks. A teething baby may also enjoy cold foods such as yogurt or cold pureed fruit.
  • If your baby experiences major discomfort, an over-the-counter pain reliever may be helpful. Check with your pediatrician before you give your child any medication.

Although it may feel like your baby’s teething will last for all eternity, this stage will pass before you know it. In the meantime, bring your child to our office for regular check-ups when we can monitor his or her dental development.

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Battle Bacteria with Brushing

Your child’s mouth contains billions of bacteria—some helpful and some harmful. There are more than 700 different types of microbes that call the mouth their home, and just one tooth can host as many as 500 million bacteria. While some bacteria actually help control the development of cavity-causing plaque, others can cause tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease if the teeth and gums are not cleaned regularly and properly.

The best way to keep your child from developing cavities and infected gums is to make sure he or she brushes twice a day (the best times are after breakfast and before bedtime). This will keep bacteria populations in check and minimize the risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease.

Passing up snacks and brushing after having one are obvious preventive measures. Here are a few other important guidelines your child should follow to make sure the risks of tooth decay and periodontal disease are minimized:

  • Have your child brush all of his or her teeth, not just the front ones, spending some time on the side and back teeth and brushing for two to three minutes. Use a timer or a song to keep track of the time.
  • Your child should use a soft-bristled brush. Replace it every three to four months—earlier if bristles show signs of wear. If your child becomes ill, replace the brush when your child recovers.
  • After brushing, have your child rinse his or her toothbrush with warm water and dry it in the open air—not in a closed container, which can enable bacteria to multiply. And don’t clean toothbrushes in a dishwasher or in the microwave, both of which can damage bristles.
  • Talk to us about swishing with an antiplaque mouth rinse and mild pediatric mouthwash, which can help reduce harmful bacteria that can cause decay and gum disease.
  • Although gum disease is not contagious, harmful bacteria can be spread from one person to another. Thus, not sharing toothbrushes, lip balm or gloss, water bottles, musical instruments or any personal item that comes in contact with the mouth is important.

Of course, one of the best ways to make sure your child’s teeth remain healthy is to schedule—and keep—regular dental checkups. Pediatric dental care is essential to help your child avoid dental problems in adulthood. Establishing good oral health habits saves time, money and headaches in the short and long run, so it is never too early to start your child on the road to optimum oral health.

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Getting the Most Out of Dental Checkups

Dental checkups are essential to keep your child’s mouth healthy and free from disease. To best prepare your child for each trip to our office, you need to be aware of what happens during an oral examination.

Your child’s first dental checkup should come after his or her first tooth comes in or by the child’s first birthday, whichever comes first. Following that first visit, most children will need to visit us twice a year—more if they’re high risk.

Dental examinations for children typically last about 30 minutes and are pain-free. We will clean your child’s teeth, and then assess his or her risk of tooth decay. Dental x-rays might be taken to reveal any existing decay, and we will check to see how your child’s teeth fit together.

During the examination, we will discuss your child’s oral hygiene habits and diet—for instance, we may suggest alternatives to sugary drinks. We can demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques for you and your child. For adolescents, we may discuss health risks associated with oral piercings and tobacco use.

If any problems become apparent, we will let you know whether special care is needed. We may suggest protective sealants to protect and fluoride treatments to help strengthen your child’s teeth.

Schedule an office visit during a time of day when your child is well rested and more likely to be cooperative. It’s important to explain the dental visit to your child in positive terms. Talk about the benefits of a dental visit, and remind your child that you get dental checkups too. Let us know about any fears your child may have about coming in to see us.

Regular dental checkups are important for good oral health and prevention of decay. Make sure you don’t neglect your child’s teeth—call our office to set up an appointment. And should any aspect of your child’s health change, let us know so we can make any necessary dental treatment changes.

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