Keep Your Child’s Teeth Safe

Children have lots of energy. They are playful. They like to try new things. They also don’t know the dangers out there in the world. We’ve all heard stories about children who chipped or lost permanent teeth because they weren’t properly prepared for the risks that come with dangerous activities. You want to protect your children from everything bad, but it’s always a challenge to know what they’re up to, and it’s impossible to be there at all times. Fortunately, parents can take several steps to keep their children’s teeth in their mouths and off the sidewalk.

  • Mouthguards―Sports such as hockey and football are major causes of dislodged teeth among children, right? Wrong. Mouthguards have been mandatory equipment in these sports for decades. But other sports pose risks that you might not expect. Baseball, basketball and even gymnastics can be a danger to your child’s smile if you don’t make sure he or she uses a mouthguard.
  • Helmets―While mouthguards protect the lips, gums and teeth from direct impact, a well-designed helmet can make sure that the threat―be it the sidewalk, a hockey puck or an errant kick from a careless teammate―never even reaches your child’s mouth. The right helmet also reduces the risk of concussion, something that can have severe and far-reaching consequences.

Make sure your child’s protective equipment is effective and up-to-date.

Come talk to us about how to protect your child’s teeth. We have seen it all and can help you make informed choices to minimize your child’s risk.

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Get an Early Start Caring for Your Baby’s Teeth

Your pediatrician starts helping you take care of your baby’s health right after birth. That includes your baby’s teeth: Caring for them begins long before they even break through the gums. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, infant oral health is one of the foundations for a lifetime free of preventable oral disease.

Caring for your baby’s teeth actually begins even before birth. During pregnancy, mom needs to eat a nutritious diet with adequate vitamins and minerals. She needs a complete dental examination, too, including treatment for any cavities or gum disease.

As soon as baby’s first tooth erupts, it is at risk for tooth decay. As prevention, the American Dental Association recommends the following:

  • Shortly after your baby is born, clean his or her gums daily with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth.
  • Once your baby’s teeth begin to emerge—typically around six months of age—brush them gently twice a day with a tiny smear of fluoridated toothpaste. You should do the toothbrushing until your child is able to tie his own shoes or use a knife and fork. After that, you might start to let your child brush his or her own teeth with your close supervision until around age six.
  • When your child has two adjacent teeth, begin flossing them daily.

These actions form the basis for a lifetime of good oral hygiene habits―habits that will protect your child from tooth decay, gum disease and other conditions that not only threaten a healthy smile but also your child’s overall health as he or she grows to adulthood.

Make an appointment to see us before your child’s first birthday. We know that every child is different. With our expertise, we can begin to assess your child’s individual oral health risks as well as ensure proper hygiene, and start him or her on the path to a lifetime of healthy smiling.

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Keep Your Special-Needs Child’s Teeth Healthy

Children with special needs often require some extra help to keep their teeth healthy. Not only can congenital abnormalities, developmental disorders, behavioral problems and other medical issues affect your child’s ability to care for his or her teeth but they can influence the development of the mouth as well.

For example, children with growth disturbances may experience delayed, accelerated or uneven tooth eruption. Developmental disorders can cause malocclusion and crowding (causing teeth that are misaligned and an improper fit between the upper and lower teeth). Congenital abnormalities and certain medications can cause lines, stains or pits to form in developing teeth; children born with Down syndrome, cleft palate or ectodermal dysplasias may suffer from missing or abnormally formed teeth.

To complicate matters further, many children with special needs have concerns with oral matters, which can make going to the dentist a scary experience. That’s why it’s so important to nurture a relationship early on between your child and us―that way, we can adjust your child’s care to meet his or her specific requirements, and your child can learn to trust us.

Discuss your child’s condition with us, so everyone is on the same page. We can advise you about ways to care for your child’s teeth and establish a good dental hygiene routine. Because some children are unable to care for their teeth entirely by themselves, parents must become active participants in preventing dental disease.

In addition, certain medications or feeding methods (e.g., prolonged bottle use, frequent use of sugary medications or high-carbohydrate diets) can lead to early tooth decay. We can help prevent these problems by recommending special rinses and showing you the best way to brush your child’s teeth, considering his or her specific challenges.

When you have concerns about your child’s oral development, or if you are unsure whether his or her medical condition might affect dental health, talk to us. The sooner we are all on board with protecting your child’s teeth, the easier it will be to keep them functioning properly.

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Banish the Sleep Bruxism Bogeyman

Does your child wake up frequently with headaches or jaw pain? Does he or she have trouble sleeping or make loud noises when asleep? If so, your child may be one of the approximately 15% to 33% of children with bruxism—tooth grinding.

Common in children, bruxism usually occurs at two peak periods, when baby teeth are emerging and then again when permanent teeth start to come in. But it can occur at other times, too. Usually, children with bruxism grind their teeth when they sleep. While the sounds they make can be surprisingly loud, sometimes the only clues that a child has sleep bruxism are unexplained head, facial and jaw pain in the morning and poor sleep quality.

The causes of bruxism are unclear. Misaligned teeth or poor bite contact between upper and lower teeth are possibilities. Nutritional deficiencies or medical conditions such as allergies or cerebral palsy may also be among the physical causes. Even some medications may be at fault. Many experts believe grinding can result when a child is stressed or anxious. Problems in school, tensions at home or social strains may create stress that leads to sleep bruxism.

The costs of bruxism are much clearer. In addition to head and facial pain and fatigue from poor sleep, grinding can cause more severe and lasting problems, such as dysfunction in the jaw, wearing down of tooth enamel and chips in teeth.  

Establishing a relaxing bedtime ritual can help. A warm bath, a gentle massage, a favorite storybook—all these can calm and soothe an anxious child and promote better sleep. A balanced diet and reducing your child’s sugar intake can also help. Ask your pediatrician if your child is taking any medications that might contribute to bruxism; if so, find out if an alternative exists.

We can evaluate the condition of your child’s mouth and suggest some interventions to reduce or even eliminate the damage, such as a thin plastic night guard to prevent the grinding. Through regular checkups, we can monitor your child’s bruxism and keep it in check, so you and your child can both sleep easier.

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Help Your Baby Through the Teething Process

Somewhere around the age of six months, your baby’s primary teeth probably will start coming in. Usually, the lower front teeth are the first to break through the gums, followed a month or two later by the upper front teeth. By the time your child is about three years of age, all 20 of his or her primary teeth will have erupted.

For some children, teething can be an uncomfortable process, accompanied by soreness and swelling of the gums. Symptoms can begin three to five days before the tooth shows and usually disappear once the tooth breaks through the skin. The most common symptoms of teething include drooling, chewing on solid objects, irritability, and sore or tender gums.

You might consider the following to help relieve discomfort if your baby seems fussy during the teething process:

  • Rub his or her gums with a clean finger, a piece of moistened gauze, a cold teething ring or a cold washcloth. If your baby is eating solid foods, you might offer him or her something edible such as a peeled, chilled cucumber or carrot―while keeping a close eye to prevent choking, of course. The pressure and/or cool temperature can soothe your baby’s discomfort. Do not, however, give your baby a frozen object, because this can be harmful.
  • Dry your baby’s drool with a clean cloth. It is natural for a baby to drool while teething, but it could irritate the skin on the chin.
  • If your child is extremely cranky, talk to your pediatrician about an over-the-counter remedy such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen especially formulated for babies.

Be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) counsels against using teething gels that numb a baby’s gums. Their use can lead to difficulty swallowing, and the medication they contain can cause other health problems.

Once your baby’s first tooth appears, it is time for his or her first dental appointment. Call our office to schedule a visit for you and your child. We can talk more about the teething process and take the first steps toward building a lifetime of healthy oral hygiene habits.

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Eating a Tooth-healthy Diet

While many adults focus on eating a healthy diet, children need to eat healthy, too—not only for their overall well-being but for their dental health as well. Childhood is the best time to instill good eating habits―habits that will minimize tooth decay and follow your child into adulthood.

Eating guidelines for children are similar to those for adults: Avoid sugars and minimize other basic carbohydrates, focusing instead on green vegetables, lean meats and dairy products. For your children’s optimum oral health, try to adhere to the following habits:

  • Offer fruits and vegetables as a snack. Pears, melons, cucumbers, and other fruits and vegetables with a high water content are much better for your children’s teeth than snacks loaded with artificial sugars.
  • Include aged cheeses as part of a meal or snack. Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss and other aged cheeses help trigger saliva flow, which washes particles of food away from the teeth and prevents decay.
  • Avoid sugary foods, especially those that are sticky or chewy. Foods such as raisins, granola bars, jelly beans, caramel and syrup stick to teeth, encouraging the buildup of plaque. If your children consume these snacks, make sure they brush immediately afterward. Items that linger in the mouth, such as lollipops and hard candies, also encourage plaque because they coat the teeth with sugar.
  • Serve your children water to drink instead of soda or juice. Both soda and juice contain sugar and encourage decay. Water, on the other hand, is by far the healthiest drink for the teeth because it contains no sugar and washes away food particles.

Remember, it’s not just about what your children eat; it’s also about minimizing the amount of time the food remains on their teeth. Be sure your children develop the habit of brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day to prevent the formation of cavity-causing plaque.

Call us for an appointment to answer questions about helping your children develop healthy eating habits. Or you can ask us at your children’s next checkup. We’ll review diet with you and help you and your children make better eating decisions that will keep their mouths healthy for a lifetime.

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