Nip Dental Problems Early
Between sports practices, school projects, jobs and family obligations, schedules sometimes seem impossibly packed. Some calendar slots, though, have to be set aside, no questions asked, for everyone’s sake—and those include your child’s twice-yearly visits to the dentist.
Why is a visit to our office at least every six months so important? Here are some reasons:
- Getting used to the dentist’s office. Your child needs to see a dentist twice a year for life. Going as a very young child (we recommend a first visit around your child’s first birthday) and having positive experiences, such as being made to feel like a partner in dental care, sets a beneficial tone for the near and far future.
- Professional cleanings. When we clean your child’s teeth, we get rid of plaque that develops despite even vigilant at-home brushing. Professional plaque removal reduces the likelihood of your child developing cavities or gum problems.
- Fluoride. If needed, we’ll provide fluoride treatments at check-ups to help strengthen your child’s teeth.
- Sealants. To protect surfaces that brushing and flossing can miss—especially the deeply creviced areas of molars—we can apply plastic-based sealants. We “paint” them on your child’s teeth to help keep out food particles and the decay-causing bacteria that feed on them.
- Cavities. Of course, if your child does develop a cavity, we’ll catch it on an x-ray and fill it while it is relatively small.
- Bite check. We’ll make sure your child’s bite is developing properly. A healthy, aligned bite can mean clearer speech and better chewing ability.
- Check for other oral problems. Regular check-ups allow us to look for gum disease when it’s still reversible. We also check for any signs of rare disorders, like oral cancer.
In short, regular preventive dental care keeps your child’s smile healthy. If it has been more than six months since your child has been to our office for a visit, call for an appointment. As we nip potential problems in the bud, your child will learn that dentists are health professionals who are their friends for life.
Spotting Your Child’s Discolored Tooth
As a parent, there’s nothing cuter than your child’s smile. When you notice one or more discolored teeth in that smile, though, your happiness can quickly turn to concern. Tooth discoloration can happen to both primary and permanent teeth. Usually it’s only a cosmetic issue, but sometimes discolored teeth indicate a more serious problem. These are some of the most common reasons for discolored teeth in children:
- Medications taken during pregnancy. The children of mothers who took tetracycline (an antibiotic) during pregnancy are more prone to having dark stains on their baby teeth.
- Newborn jaundice. When babies who have suffered from hyperbilirubinemia—the condition that causes jaundice—start teething, parents might notice a greenish-blue or brownish-red hue on newly sprouted chompers.
- Too much fluoride or iron. Consuming excessive amounts of iron or fluoride can cause dark hues (iron) or white streaks (fluoride) on teeth.
- Injuries. An injury to the teeth or gums may cause your child’s teeth to look a bit pink or gray.
- Weak enamel. Your child’s discolored teeth may be blamed on your genetics. Some people are simply prone to weak enamel, which can manifest as discoloration when new teeth are developing.
- High fevers or illness. A high fever, infection or other serious illness as a baby can cause tooth stains or discoloration in permanent teeth.
- Poor oral hygiene or consuming too many sugary drinks. Decay can cause staining, too.
While many of the causes of tooth discoloration are out of your control, you can help improve the health and appearance of your child’s teeth by making sure he or she brushes twice a day and flosses every day. Also, come to our office at least twice a year for cleanings and check-ups.
If you notice a new discoloration on your child’s tooth, call us for an appointment. We can determine whether the staining indicates something more serious. Even if it is just a cosmetic concern, we can probably suggest options, such as bonding or whitening, to correct the discoloration. Don’t let discolored teeth get in the way of your child’s beautiful smile.
Eating Right for a Healthy Smile
Eating patterns and food choices are important factors that contribute to your child’s oral health. Bacteria love sugar and, with the aid of sugars, produce acids that break down the enamel of teeth. That’s what causes tooth decay.
The goal for parents, then, should be to limit those sugars not produced naturally by encouraging their child to eat a balanced diet, followed up by a thorough hygiene regimen.
What does a “balanced diet” mean? It means balancing the basic food groups:
- whole grains, which provide B vitamins and iron to maintain healthy gums
- dairy products, which provide calcium to reinforce dental strength
- fruits and vegetables, which provide mineral growth through an increase in saliva
- meat, poultry and fish, which provide protein to help young children grow
One of the first things you as a parent can do is to introduce healthy snacks into your child’s diet. The sooner and more often you do this, the more often the healthy snack will be the preferred snack. Healthy snacks include fruits, vegetables, natural peanut butter and dairy-based products, such as yogurt. The goal is to have snacks that, like your child’s day-to-day diet, are balanced and limit the amount of tartar that can form on your child’s teeth. It is also important to limit snacking, because the less the mouth is exposed to sugars, the less likely bacteria can generate the acid that causes decay.
Let’s face it. Your children will sometimes eat less-than-ideal foods. That’s okay―it is not a “dental deal breaker.” It just allows you to instill another life lesson in your children―moderation. As long as your child is not eating these foods on a daily basis and continues to maintain a daily dental routine, there should be no overwhelming issues.
Of course, healthy eating is only one factor in maintaining good oral health. It also must be accompanied by good hygiene and regular visits to the dentist. If your child hasn’t been in for a cleaning and a check-up in six months, give us a call. We will not only clean and check your child’s teeth, but we can talk to your child about the importance of healthy eating.
Healthy Teeth at Every Age
There are so many reasons to prioritize your child’s dental health. Aside from keeping your child healthy and happy, good dental habits can prevent expensive corrective measures in the future. But how can you, as a parent, help protect your child’s mouth? The following are tips for every stage of childhood, to help keep that smile looking like a million bucks—and help you avoid spending a million bucks in the process.
- Infancy. Good oral health starts from day one. Even before your baby has teeth to worry about, you can start wiping your baby’s gums with a damp washcloth to remove any bacteria. Once the first teeth pop up, gently brush them with a baby toothbrush and a tiny amount of infant toothpaste. You can even floss your baby’s teeth, as soon as he or she has two that touch.
- Toddlerhood. Around your child’s first birthday, call our office to schedule an appointment. The earlier your child gets in the habit of seeing a dentist, the less stressful it will be for both of you. A visit also allows us to get an idea of any potential problems that might arise in the future. Limit juice and sticky fruit snacks, and transition to a regular cup rather than a bottle or a sippy cup as soon as possible.
- Preschool. At this point, your little one can start learning to brush on his or her own. If your child is resistant to the idea, consider a sticker reward chart or a fun tooth-brushing app. You should still help your child floss and finish up the brushing to make sure your child is doing a thorough job—and make sure your child is spitting out toothpaste rather than swallowing it.
- School-age. Children are pretty independent at this age, so just make sure they are keeping up with good brushing and flossing, and visit us regularly. We may recommend orthodontic work during this stage, as well as sealants, which can help prevent decay.
Childhood is a great time to instill healthy dental habits for life. Encourage healthy snacking, as well as regular brushing and flossing. And be sure to see us regularly so we can tell you and your child what a good job you’re both doing.
Celiac Disease and Enamel Defects
An autoimmune disease that causes small-intestine reactions to the gluten found in wheat, rye and barley, celiac disease affects nearly 1 out of every 100 people in North America. But 90% of those with celiac disease go undiagnosed, leaving them at risk for long-term health complications. Though celiac disease is most often associated with gastrointestinal reactions, there is a good chance that we may be the first to spot symptoms of celiac disease, primarily in the form of damaged tooth enamel.
Celiac disease can leave permanent teeth with defects including
- white, yellow or brown spots
- poor enamel formation
- pitting or banding of teeth
- mottled or translucent-looking teeth
These enamel defects are symmetrical, usually appearing on the incisors and molars. Though not all enamel defects are caused by celiac disease—many times they are caused by a maternal or early childhood illness—these defects are common in most people with celiac disease.
Unfortunately, these defects are permanent. Adhering to a strict gluten-free diet, while necessary for the overall health of those with celiac disease, will not improve the appearance of the teeth. In older children, however, we can discuss bonding, veneers and other cosmetic treatments to cover these defects and give your child a bright, healthy-looking smile.
Celiac disease can lead to other symptoms in the mouth, including recurrent canker sores or ulcers; a red, smooth, shiny tongue; dry mouth syndrome or even squamous cell carcinoma. We are trained to look for all of these conditions, and we can refer your child to a specialist, if necessary.
Oral health and general health are linked in so many ways, and the research on this connection is always increasing. If your child is not receiving regular cleanings and check-ups, call us to schedule an appointment. We will assess your child’s oral health and work with you and your child to build good hygiene habits at home. And we will be in a position to spot symptoms of general health problems such as celiac disease.
Along with a manual examination and cleaning, dental radiographs (x-rays) are often a part of a child’s regular dental visit. But are they really necessary? X-rays are not to be taken lightly, so it’s important to understand why they are used and when they can be avoided.
When we examine your child’s teeth, the most we can see are three of the five surfaces on each tooth. X-rays can help diagnose cavities that may be lurking in hard-to-visualize places, as well as showing what’s going on under the gumline.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends children receive an x-ray examination once a year if there is no visual indication of gum disease or decay, and every six months if there are signs of either of these problems. But with these guidelines, they provided an important caveat: Because every child’s situation is unique, dentists need to adjust accordingly. “The need for dental radiographs can be determined only after reviewing the patient’s medical and dental histories, completing a clinical examination, and assessing the patient’s vulnerability to environmental factors that affect oral health,” the ADA states in its position paper.
The amount of radiation transmitted to your child during a dental x-ray is minimal. We only perform radiographic imaging when there’s a definite medical benefit to doing so, and when a visual examination can’t guarantee the same results. We also use the lowest amount of radiation possible, along with equipment such as thyroid collars and aprons to protect your child’s body.
Know that we use the safest x-ray techniques to maintain your child’s dental health. If you have questions or concerns, please ask us at your child’s next appointment. We will be happy to discuss them with you.