Don’t Let Acids Erode Your Child’s Tooth Enamel
Tooth erosion can be caused by acid that wears away enamel, the tooth’s outer covering. When exposed to acidic food and drinks, the enamel temporarily softens, losing mineral content that is hard to replace. And the enamel of baby teeth is thinner and more vulnerable to acid erosion than that of adult teeth.
Although children’s primary (or baby) teeth eventually fall out to make room for their permanent teeth, erosion in their primary teeth may lead to clinical problems later on. If baby teeth are damaged or destroyed, the permanent teeth may not grow in properly, resulting in crooked or crowded permanent teeth. Preventing and treating tooth decay from an early age can help avert damage to a child’s permanent teeth.
Of the factors leading to dental erosion, diet and lifestyle are among the most important. Acidic drinks—carbonated beverages, sports drinks, some fruit juices (such as grapefruit juice and orange juice)—are the leading cause of dental erosion in children. If left untreated, the resulting tooth decay causes pain, making it difficult for your child to eat, chew or even talk. Have your children consume these beverages through a straw and swallow them immediately, rather than swishing the liquid around in their mouths. And instead of sucking on citrus fruits, your children should eat them quickly.
A recent study published in the Pediatric Dental Journal explored the erosive effects of honey, molasses and orange juice on primary teeth, and found the following results:
- Teeth exposed to orange juice and molasses showed the greatest change on the surface.
- Exposure to honey did not reveal any statistically significant change in the enamel surface roughness.
Brushing is an important habit, but your children should wait at least an hour to brush their teeth after consuming acidic beverages or food. Regular dental checkups also help your child’s teeth stay strong and healthy. At your child’s next appointment, we can discuss smart ways to prevent cavities.
The Formula to Avoid Fluorosis
Your infant needs to ingest the proper amount of fluoride to prevent tooth decay. However, excessive intake of the mineral from water, toothpaste and/or mouthwash—especially during the first 8 years of your child’s life when teeth are still forming under the gums—can lead to dental fluorosis, typically appearing as white spots or markings on the front teeth.
Many local water systems add fluoride to the public water supply to help prevent tooth decay within the community. The effects of fluoride can benefit children and adults throughout their lives.
However, if your infant is under 1 year of age and you mix formula with fluoridated water, your child can ingest more than the optimal amount of fluoride. At this early age, too much fluoride can increase the risk of enamel fluorosis. If your baby’s main source of nutrition is powdered or concentrated liquid formula, consider using water with no or low fluoride to reconstitute the product and help lessen the risk of fluorosis. Look for bottled water labeled de-ionized, purified, distilled or demineralized; if the bottled water contains fluoride, the label will say so. Breast milk and ready-to-feed formulas provide lower levels of fluoride.
As soon as your baby’s first tooth appears, talk to us about ways to protect your child from fluorosis. It’s never too early for your baby’s first dental checkup. It is widely recommended that children have their first dental visit by the time they celebrate their first birthday.
Early and regular checkups can reduce your child’s chances of fluorosis and cavities. Call our office today to schedule an appointment.
Under-the-Pillow Talk: Saying Goodbye to the Tooth Fairy
Over the years, we’ve heard many ideas about how to celebrate a child’s last visit from the Tooth Fairy when the last baby tooth falls out—usually sometime between the ages of 10 and 12. Although not discussed as often as other rites of passage, losing that last baby tooth is a mark of childhood’s end and young adulthood’s beginning.
The following ideas can work even if your child has a pretty good suspicion that the Tooth Fairy is actually Mom or Dad:
- Be crafty. Have your child elaborately decorate a small box or envelope. Enclose the tooth with a note from your child to the Tooth Fairy asking if this tooth can be kept without penalty at home as a memento.
- Be thankful. Have your child write a note of thanks for all the goodies previously left in exchange for lost teeth, sharing memories of any particular gift or occasion.
- Be sentimental. Make a photo collage of your child in the various stages of dental development—gummy smile baby to almost-adolescent.
- Be unusual. If the Tooth Fairy usually leaves a monetary gift, leave one tonight as well, but make it different in some way—perhaps $1 coins, $2 bills or foreign currency.
- Be practical. Leave a token gift, but add a note from the Tooth Fairy saying that a deposit has been made into the child’s college savings account to mark this special occasion.
- Be thinking about the future. Even if your child “knows” that the Tooth Fairy really doesn’t exist, write a letter from the Tooth Fairy, sharing memories of collecting your child’s teeth. Include a promise that the Tooth Fairy will return at some point in the future to further reflect on your child’s life with a full mouth of adult teeth. Then start keeping a journal about memorable days in your child’s teenage life and present it to your child at his or her high school graduation.
The final visit of the Tooth Fairy doesn’t have to be a sad time in a parent’s life. Celebrate your hard work keeping those baby teeth healthy and clean. Continue to have your child brush and floss the permanent teeth as they come in. And schedule regular visits for your child with us to make sure those new teeth are properly aligned and cavity-free. With proper care, you can make your child’s new teeth last a lifetime.
Your Child’s First Dental Visit: Make It Positive
Regular visits to the dentist should be a positive experience for both children and parents. But a first visit to the dentist doesn’t have to be a scary experience.
Here are some tips to make that visit, along with the other “dental firsts” that follow, a positive experience.
- Check your own attitude. If you had a negative dental experience as a child or are still fearful of visiting the dentist, try not to communicate your discomfort to your child.
- Describe us as a friend who helps children have strong healthy teeth. Picture books about a first visit to the dentist can be reassuring, too.
- Schedule a pre-examination visit to our office to let your child become familiar with the environment and staff. Our office features child-friendly décor and reading materials. Point out decorations with animals or cartoon characters your child likes.
- Show your child the examination room and “the big chair” to prepare for the actual first visit. After the visit, talk about some of the new things the two of you saw there, and remind your child that he or she will see them again soon.
- Schedule the appointment for a time when your child will be well rested and lightly fed. Remind your child of the appointment earlier on the day of the visit.
- Bring a comfort toy from home to help relieve anxiety.
- Let us show your child the instruments and describe how we will use them.
- Discuss the visit afterward, and emphasize just how nice everyone was.
If your child becomes fussy or fearful during any dental visit, remain calm and allow our dental team to take the lead. We have a great deal of experience managing these issues. With your support, we can earn your child’s trust and pave the way for a positive long-term relationship.
Some Wisdom on Wisdom Teeth Removal
As your adolescents age, they gain not only wisdom but also wisdom teeth. When your child is around age 16, these molars in the back of the mouth may start erupting from the gum. When they have enough space, wisdom teeth help us chew better. But in many cases, wisdom teeth are not aligned properly, and because they are often difficult to reach when brushing or flossing, they can make your child’s mouth more prone to cavities or infection.
If, after an examination and x-rays, we recommend removing your child’s wisdom teeth, here is what you can expect:
- Presurgery. We will administer a local anesthetic so that your child does not feel any pain in the mouth while we remove the wisdom teeth. In some cases, we might also administer an intravenous sedative. Although your child will still be awake, the sedation suppresses awareness, leaving limited memory of the procedure. You will need to let us know if your child has any allergies so we can make any necessary adjustments to the sedation.
- Extraction. During the procedure, we make an incision in the gums to expose the tooth and bone, remove the tooth, clean the area of any debris and then stitch it together to promote healing. If your child has been sedated, he or she will need a few minutes in a recovery room to fully wake up. Otherwise, the brief recovery time is spent in the dental chair.
- At-home recovery. A small amount of bleeding is normal, as is some pain and swelling. We generally recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen. Placing an ice pack on your child’s jaw can help relieve pain and swelling.
- Eating and drinking. Make sure your child eats only soft foods, such as yogurt or applesauce, and avoids hot, carbonated or caffeinated beverages for the first 24 hours after surgery. Progress to semi-soft foods when your child is comfortable with them, but avoid hard, chewy, hot or spicy foods, as well as drinking through a straw so the sucking action won’t dislodge the blood clot from the socket, until healing is complete.
With the wisdom teeth removed, the remaining teeth in your child’s mouth will be better spaced for a lifetime of good oral health. Because wisdom teeth are often impacted in the jaw and fail to erupt, it is especially important that your child receive regular dental care through the teenage years. If more than six months have passed since your child has seen us, call our office for an appointment so that we can assess your child’s oral health—and evaluate the wisdom of keeping those wisdom teeth.
How to Whiten Children’s Teeth
The market is glutted with products designed to whiten teeth. Strips and gels promise to turn teeth a bright, sparkling white. If your children have teeth that are yellow or discolored, you might be tempted to let them use one of these products. Our advice: Don’t do it.
Whitening strips and toothpastes work with hydrogen peroxide solutions that literally bleach the teeth. While adults can be trusted to follow directions when using these products, children can easily make mistakes in application, leaving whitening strips on for too long or even swallowing them. Excessive or incorrect use of these products can result in a sharp increase in tooth sensitivity and even rub away tooth enamel.
This may be disheartening to you and your children. A child’s discolored teeth can often be the source of social exclusion, ridicule and bullying. If this is a problem for your child, we may have a solution.
We can perform a stain-removing procedure to clean your child’s teeth. Because we perform the entire procedure, there’s no worry about mistakes in application. Just be sure to keep your child’s (and your own) expectations in check. We don’t perform miracles. Discoloration can be removed, but that doesn't mean your child’s teeth will suddenly sparkle like those of a movie star.
After your child has undergone a whitening procedure, it’s important to reinforce your child’s oral hygiene. Brushing twice a day, flossing once a day and reducing the intake of foods that stain the teeth help ensure that the teeth retain their whiteness.
Follow-up appointments are equally important. Make sure to schedule regular cleanings at our office—they play a critical role in making sure your child’s teeth always look their best.