Teeth Touching? Start Flossing
Flossing is an important tool for children as it is with adults for preventing cavity formation between teeth, removing plaque between teeth and below the gumline before it hardens into tartar. Your child’s need to floss can start as early as age 2½.
Primary teeth often have space between them, reflecting the slow development of your child’s mouth. Eventually, as that spacing decreases, you will notice two or more of your child’s teeth touching―or at least close enough that simply brushing teeth is not enough. That’s when you need to start flossing your child’s teeth. Remember the goal is complete dental hygiene; it is vital to get all sides of the tooth―including those you can’t reach with a brush.
Your child does not and will not have the fine motor skills necessary for flossing for quite some time (usually not until age 10 or 11), so the job is up to you. Make flossing a pleasant experience and emphasize that it is part of a healthy dental routine. Use the simplest motions possible to dislodge whatever food might be stuck between the teeth.
Sometimes it is easiest to have your child lie flat with his or her head on a pillow or in your lap and say, “Open wide!” Take a piece of floss and wrap it between your middle fingers until you have about two inches of floss to work with. Place the floss around the base of the tooth near the gum in a “C” shape. Move from bottom to top two to three times, using a fresh part of the floss as you go from tooth to tooth.
As a parent, you need to set the groundwork for a healthy dental routine. Remember, including flossing in this routine is vital to your child’s oral health―you don’t want to risk any long-term dental issues. Call our office with any questions you may have about flossing, or bring them up at your child’s next appointment.
Give Your Child a New Toothbrush
Did you ever wonder why we give your child a new toothbrush at every visit? We want to make sure that your child regularly gets a new toothbrush.
While we generally recommend that you schedule your child for two checkups a year, you should actually replace his or her toothbrush, or toothbrush head if you use an electric toothbrush, at least every three months. Here’s why:
- Wear and tear. The more you use your toothbrush, the more the bristles wear down and soften, losing their cleaning power. You may have noticed that some toothbrushes have little peaks and valleys in their shape when viewed from the side. That’s to help get the brush into the curved edges of your teeth and the gaps between them. As the bristles flatten out, they lose that ability.
- Harmful particles. Your toothbrush is designed to get rid of tiny particles of bacteria, plaque and fungi on your teeth. Even if you conscientiously and thoroughly clean your brush, you simply can’t remove all those microorganisms. Over time those particles build up on the bristles, and you end up putting them right back onto your teeth.
Since germs can also breed on toothbrushes, you might want to replace everyone’s toothbrush sooner rather than later if you or your child gets sick.
Some toothbrushes have indicators that let you know when it’s time to get a new one. Pay attention to those indicators (usually specially marked or colored bristles)―some people wear out their toothbrushes faster than others. Bring your child’s three-month-old toothbrush in with you at your next visit, and we’ll be happy to replace it with a brand-new one.
Special Patients, Special Care: Dentistry and Your Special Needs Child
While going to the dentist can be daunting for anyone, children with developmental disabilities may find it particularly challenging. The sounds, smells and sights of a dental office can be frightening when children have sensory issues or trouble understanding the world around them. Luckily, we are specially trained to treat young patients who might need a bit of extra attention and special care.
Since people with disabilities can be at higher risk for oral health problems, it’s especially important that parents and our office work together to establish a level of comfort and routine when it comes to dental care. Consider the following tips that can help lead to happy, healthy dental visits for children with special needs:
1. Let us know in advance exactly what your child’s needs are, so that we can better prepare for his or her visit. Make a date to come by our office prior to the appointment. We can introduce ourselves to you and your child and give you a “tour” of all the rooms and the dental equipment.
2. A few weeks before your appointment, start reading stories or watching television programs about visiting the dentist. If possible, talk about what will happen in easy-to-understand terms.
3. If your child is sensitive to noise, bring noise-cancelling headphones and music he or she can listen to during the examination. A stuffed animal, blanket or other comforting object can also help children feel more secure.
4. We might recommend sedation in certain circumstances, sometimes even for simple cleanings and examinations. Consider whether your child can sit still for the examination or if being asleep might make things easier for him or her.
5. Keep up with routine visits. Familiar faces can minimize some of the anxiety your child―and you―might feel about dental appointments.
Dental examinations are only part of the battle. You need to help your child care for his or her teeth between visits. Ask us for suggestions on improving oral health at home―then rest assured that you’re doing all you can to serve the dental needs of your child.
Help! My Teen Wants an Oral Piercing
As your children grow up, they start to look for ways to express themselves as individuals. Some methods of expression can be healthy, some can be neutral and some can be harmful. You can help your child make smart and safe choices while allowing him or her the opportunity for individuality.
One of the most common issues of self-expression we hear from parents concerns oral piercings. That includes the tongue, lips, cheeks and even uvula. We generally recommend against these procedures, for several reasons:
- Harm to basic oral functions. Studs, rings and barbells make it harder to chew, swallow and even speak.
- Damage to teeth, gums and dental work. Biting or orally manipulating oral piercings can cause scratches, cuts and chipped teeth; it can also puncture and dislodge fillings.
- Drooling. The presence of foreign bodies in the mouth stimulates excess saliva production.
- Allergic reactions. Many people are allergic to the metals used in piercing jewelry, which can lead to harmful swelling.
- Infection. Punctures in the mouth can allow harmful bacteria into the bloodstream, causing pain and swelling that can even lead to suffocation if the tongue swells enough to block the airways.
- Nerve damage. Tongue piercings can cause temporary or even permanent damage to the sense of taste.
We understand that you can’t talk your children out of everything they want to do, and they may insist on doing some things with or without your approval. If your child does get an oral piercing, proper dental care becomes that much more important. Use a mouth rinse after every meal to remove any harmful particles. Keep all mouth jewelry tight in order to prevent loose components from causing choking or infection.
Finally, schedule a visit with us. We will make sure there are no harmful side effects from the piercing and teach your child the proper oral care.
Front Teeth―First In, First Out
Children grow up too fast. So many milestones pass: crawling, walking, talking, getting his or her first tooth. Another milestone is losing his or her first tooth. As those baby teeth fall out and their adult counterparts come in, your child graduates to the next level of dental hygiene.
So what actually happens? In simple terms, your child’s permanent teeth slowly start growing below the primary teeth. As they do, the baby teeth’s roots begin to get absorbed into the gums. As the root recedes and the permanent teeth erupt, the primary teeth are pushed out―this is the “loosening” your child will be most preoccupied with. The permanent teeth take the place of the primary teeth, essentially following the same path previously followed by their predecessors.
The first baby teeth to go (absent any unforeseen trauma or deplorable hygiene habits) are usually the lower center incisors—the two bottom teeth in the middle. Why? Simple―these teeth are the first to come in and therefore the first to go. This pattern follows for all twenty of the primary teeth—for the most part, they will leave in the order they arrived.
Although there is no set time for this to happen, the first baby tooth typically will fall out when your child is between the ages of 4 and 7. As a general rule of thumb, the earlier your child gets a first tooth, the sooner he or she will lose the first tooth. If the front center teeth haven’t started loosening by ages 6 to 7, you should come see us, in case the permanent teeth are blocked by extra teeth present in the jaw. Once the front center teeth go, the rest will follow in a process that should last about six years from start to finish.
Be ready for when your child’s teeth start to fall out. Communicate with your child about why his or her tooth is falling out and why it is not something to worry about. You should also explain to your child why it’s not necessary to be overly ambitious and yank out any loose teeth. Don’t hesitate to call us with any concerns.
One Brushstroke = Ten Years of Cavity Protection
The cavity-prevention method called “sealing” is a very effective and easy way for dentists and parents to help greatly reduce the chance that children will develop tooth decay.
How it works: The sealant, brushed onto the surfaces of your child’s teeth, is actually a liquid form of plastic. The back teeth—premolars and molars, with their particularly deep crevices—benefit most from sealants. Without sealants, food particles and decay-causing bacteria can remain in those tough-to-reach spaces, away from the efforts of even the most conscientious tooth-brushers.
After we apply the sealant, it hardens rapidly and becomes a colorless physical barrier―it literally “seals up” those tooth crevices so food and bacteria cannot settle there. The best strategy appears to be applying sealant to the chewing surface of each back tooth as soon as possible after the tooth emerges in your child’s mouth. We often recommend sealing primary teeth as well.
Generally long lasting, one application of sealant can last for up to a decade. During each of your child’s checkups, we’ll inspect the sealant and apply more if necessary, because on occasion the sealant may wear away earlier than expected.
If there is a downside to applying dental sealant, it’s that parents and children can be lulled into a false sense of security. While sealants do effectively deter cavities from forming in children’s nook-and-cranny-filled back teeth, they provide no guarantee that all of your child’s teeth will remain cavity-free. To best protect the smooth surfaces of all teeth, expose them to fluoride—with fluoride toothpaste, fluoridated water and, in some cases for extra protection, a fluoride rinse.
Remember that, even with sealed teeth, your child needs to follow the rules of good dental hygiene. Your child still should brush twice a day, floss once a day, and avoid sticky candy and cookies unless he or she can brush right after eating them.
More questions about sealants? Talk to us at your child’s next visit.