Soothe Teething Pain Naturally

Baby’s first tooth is usually a cause for celebration. But as teething gets underway, you may search for a way to relieve the pain for your crying infant. Among the most commonly used pain relievers are teething gels. Applied to baby’s gums, the gels can numb the area and offer relief. However, experts say that if these gels contain benzocaine, they should be avoided for children under the age of two years. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even issued a warning to avoid benzocaine use in children of that age.

Benzocaine is a local anesthetic contained in brand name products Anbesol, Orajel, Baby Orajel and Orabase, among others. Though effective, benzocaine has been known to cause methemoglobinemia, a rare and potentially fatal blood disease, in children under two years old that can reduce the body’s ability to release oxygen to the tissues and cause headaches, shortness of breath, skin discoloration, fatigue and an inability to exercise. According to the FDA, one dose of benzocaine is enough to trigger the condition, so it is best to avoid it altogether in the very young children most at risk.

With this in mind and because teething pain can lead to other problems such as difficulty eating and sleeping, diarrhea and low-grade fever, you will need to explore other options to relieve your baby’s discomfort. Some natural remedies include

  • sucking on a silicone teething ring or a clean washcloth that you have put in the refrigerator for a while
  • a bottle or cup filled with fresh, cool water to provide relief
  • feeding your baby cool, nutritious foods, such as sugar-free yogurt, cold fruit puree or applesauce, if the baby is old enough for solid foods
  • using clean fingers to gently massage the irritated areas of your baby’s gums

A cuddle often works when all else fails.

These natural solutions can safely and effectively ease baby’s pain and restore calm, while offering you peace of mind.

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Remove Plaque and Reduce Pneumonia Risk

Practicing good oral hygiene is essential to preventing tooth decay, gum disease and other dental problems. But did you know that proper oral care can also benefit your child’s overall health?

Recent research has linked dental hygiene to many respiratory conditions, particularly pneumonia, which, along with influenza, is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States.

Pneumonia is commonly triggered by a viral or bacterial infection. Viral pneumonia usually heals on its own, while the bacterial form can be treated by antibiotics. However, the disease has become more resistant to antibiotics over time, so taking steps to help your child avoid it is wise.

The connection between dental hygiene and pneumonia lies in the fight against bacteria. Oral hygiene aims to prevent and remove plaque from teeth. Plaque is a sticky substance that forms on teeth through the eating and chewing processes and encourages the growth of bacteria.

If plaque is not removed from teeth, the bacteria thrive and can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and eventual tooth loss. Decay-causing bacteria can also contribute to other illnesses, particularly respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia.

To prevent and fight plaque build-up,

  • have your child brush his or her teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, floss daily and use an antibacterial mouth rinse each day
  • bring your child to our office for regular checkups and cleanings
  • encourage your child to eat a healthy diet
  • limit your child’s intake of sugary foods and drinks, because these encourage the growth of plaque and bacteria

These basic preventive measures can help your child maintain good oral health, while also strengthening his or her resistance to other bacteria-caused illnesses. Keep in mind that if your child already suffers from asthma or another chronic respiratory condition, he or she may be particularly vulnerable to pneumonia.

Good dental care is a simple, cost-effective and proven way to defend your child’s oral health and general well-being. Make an appointment so we can review these measures with you and your child.

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Expecting? Mom’s Healthier Mouth Means a Healthier Child

Keeping teeth and gums healthy is always important, yet many pregnant women ignore dental visits as they become wrapped up in other health care demands of pregnancy. Disregarding regular dental care during pregnancy poses risks not only to the mother but also to the child she’s carrying.

Research has indicated a possible link between gum disease in pregnant women and low birth weight, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and preterm birth. While those relationships have not been conclusively proven, there is strong evidence that keeping your teeth and gums healthy while pregnant poses no harm to the baby and is a key component in counteracting some of the negative effects pregnancy can have on oral health.

How does pregnancy affect the teeth and gums?

  • Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can increase a woman’s risk for cavities as well as cause gum inflammation.
  • So-called pregnancy gingivitis—a mild inflammation of gums that occurs during pregnancy—affects as many as one third of all pregnant women.
  • Tooth decay and enamel erosion may also increase as a result of changes in diet, along with nausea and vomiting.
  • Tooth and gum disease is also associated with heart disease, respiratory illness and diabetes in the mother, all of which can affect your child while still in the uterus.

If these reasons are not enough to encourage you to maintain dental care during pregnancy, consider this: Studies also have shown that mother-to-child transmission of bacteria through transference of saliva is the primary cause of cavities in young children. This means that when your mouth is healthier and fewer harmful bacteria are present, the risk of your child’s developing cavities is significantly lower. Taken altogether, keeping your own teeth and gums healthy during pregnancy is a safe, simple way to improve your child’s overall health, both before and after birth.

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Good Oral Care Habits Last for Life

Many recent studies have focused on the important role played by healthy teeth and gums to maintain the body’s overall health. Gum disease is, after all, a form of inflammation, and the body’s so-called inflammatory cascade—the series of bodily processes caused or spurred on by inflammation—has been associated with many illnesses and health conditions.

One of the best ways to prevent gum disease as an adult is to establish healthy habits of good oral care during childhood. The earlier good habits are established—and the more frequently they are enforced—the harder they are to break.

As a parent, one of the best things you can do to promote your child’s dental health is to take the time to help them establish good oral care habits now that will help them stay healthy later. So, what does that entail?

  1. Keep your baby’s gums clean using a soft cloth.
  2. Once baby teeth emerge, use a soft-bristled brush designed for baby’s mouths to keep teeth clean.
  3. Bring your child in to see us early—as early as six months of age. By introducing your child to us and familiarizing your child with the procedures involved in a dental appointment, you can significantly reduce the anxiety many people fear when visiting the dentist. Make dental visits a routine part of your child’s life.
  4. Ask us for guidance on healthy snacks, the best way to brush and for guidance on when—and how—to begin flossing teeth. Also ask about the use of supplemental oral health products, such as plaque rinse or mouthwash.
  5. Perhaps most importantly, practice what you preach: Demonstrate good oral care habits, including brushing and flossing and regular dental visits, in front of your children.
  6. Finally, keep your own anxiety about the dentist to yourself—do not voice your fears in front of your children.

By instilling good oral care habits in your children early in life, you encourage your child to maintain them as he or she grows into an adult. And children trained to keep themselves healthy pass on these good habits to their own children. Make regular visits to our office part of your child’s routine now.

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Treating Enlarged Gums in Children

Gingival hyperplasia, or overgrowth of the tissues surrounding the roots of the teeth, is a condition that can cause children physical and emotional pain. The visible enlargement of the gums can make children self-conscious about their smiles, and excess tissue can make teething difficult for toddlers, as well as causing a myriad of dental problems in older children.

At times, gingival hyperplasia is the result of poor dental hygiene. For example, orthodontic patients can sometimes develop the condition because of bacterial growth in hard-to-reach areas under braces.

But while practicing good dental habits can help, gingival overgrowth is often out of our control. This is because it is associated with certain medications and chronic diseases—in other words, it can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying condition, or a side effect of a medication used to control a serious medical issue. For instance, gingival overgrowth may be a sign of several types of leukemia in some children (one reason to see us if you notice excess gum tissue forming in your child’s mouth), and is also seen in patients with diabetes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Crohn’s disease. Genetic diseases such as hereditary fibromatosis, Pfeiffer syndrome or infantile systemic hyalinosis can also lead to the enlargement of gingival tissues. Medications used to treat epilepsy are a leading cause of the condition, as well.

We can treat the symptoms of gingival overgrowth, but the first step is deciphering the cause and making sure any underlying conditions are treated. After your physician and we have addressed these health concerns, a treatment plan will be put in place. This will typically include

  • frequent dental visits to remove plaque and monitor the progress of the condition
  • regular use of a special medicated mouth rinse that helps reduce tissue enlargement
  • learning to use a gentler brushing technique
  • treatment using medications or surgery

The first step to feeling and looking better is to make an appointment with us if you notice that your child’s gums look unusual. The sooner gingival overgrowth is treated, the better for your child’s health and self-esteem.

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Bulimia’s Impact on Dental Health

Eating disorders pose a serious problem in the United States. More than 10 million Americans, especially teen and young adult women, suffer from eating disorders, one of which is bulimia—a cycle of bingeing on food and purging by the use of laxatives or vomiting. Bulimia can wreak havoc on a young person’s health, including causing serious dental problems. In fact, dentists are often the first medical professionals to suspect bulimia in their patients, making us a key part of the recovery process.

Throwing up frequently can affect the mouth in several ways:

It destroys the enamel. When you vomit, your mouth is bathed in digestive acids, along with the foods being regurgitated. These acids can erode the enamel, or top layer, of your teeth. This is a problem because the enamel protects the more fragile layers of your teeth from sensitivity and decay. Studies show that 89% of people who are bulimic suffer from enamel erosion.

It ruins appearance. As the enamel of your teeth is worn away, the teeth take on a yellowish or grayish appearance. If the erosion process continues, teeth can even change in size, appearing longer. Frequent vomiting may cause problems with the salivary glands, and swollen glands can widen your jaw, giving it a “square” appearance.

It can make a person with bulimia feel uncomfortable. Dry, cracked lips; chronic dry mouth; severely sensitive teeth; and a sore throat and tongue are painful conditions common in bulimics.

We can help manage the effects of bulimia on your child’s mouth. We may suggest avoiding brushing the teeth directly after vomiting, because this can make erosion worse. Instead, encourage your child to use a baking soda rinse to wash acid from the mouth. Saliva replacements and fluoride treatments can also help counteract the negative effects of the disease, as is making frequent visits to our office to treat cavities and perform root canals on damaged teeth.

Despite being able to help with the side effects, we can’t help your child recover from bulimia. It is vitally important to get the help your child needs—not only for the sake of his or her mouth, but also for health, happiness and the future.

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