When a Toothache Is Not About a Tooth

When your child complains of a toothache, your first thought may be that it comes from a cavity or a loose tooth. But if your child practices good oral hygiene and you visit us regularly for cleanings and examinations, there’s a chance that your child’s toothache is not a toothache at all.

A toothache in the upper teeth might result from a sinus problem rather than from a tooth problem. Because the teeth and their nerves are closely located to the sinus cavities, an inflammation of the tissues lining the sinuses can cause toothaches. Various conditions can trigger a sinus inflammation, including a viral or bacterial infection, asthma, and changes in outside temperature or air pressure.

In addition to a toothache in the upper teeth, symptoms of sinus inflammation may include

  • nasal congestion or discharge
  • fever
  • cough
  • pain or pressure around the eyes
  • tenderness, redness or swelling in the cheekbones

If your child’s toothache is accompanied by any of these symptoms or coincides with allergy or cold season, a trip to your child’s pediatrician might be the right move. The pediatrician might prescribe an antibiotic to treat a bacterial infection, or a nasal spray or another treatment that will, in turn, relieve the toothache.

To temporarily relieve tooth pain, have your child rinse with a warm saltwater solution, and then apply a cold compress to the outside of the mouth. These simple steps can relieve inflammation while you wait to see your child’s pediatrician for a more thorough examination to diagnose and treat the root cause of the toothache.

Of course, that toothache might be the result of an oral infection. If your child complains of pain that lasts for more than a day, especially pain not accompanied by one or more of the symptoms listed above, call our office for an appointment. We will examine your child’s mouth to either rule out a dental problem or treat it, giving your child long-lasting relief from whatever is causing the toothache.

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Yogurt: Your Dentist’s Favorite Food

Yogurt has been called a dental super-food. Considering how many foods we tell you to avoid, this is a big deal. So why should you stock your refrigerator with this thick dairy goodness?

1. Yogurt makes your mouth less acidic. In chemistry class you might have heard about pH balances. Substances with a high pH—such as yogurt—counteract acids that feed bacteria harmful to teeth.

2. Yogurt is high in calcium. Your teeth are made of calcium. More calcium means stronger teeth, and stronger teeth mean fewer cavities and less tooth decay.

3. Yogurt makes your breath smell better. Yogurt is filled with healthy bacteria and yeasts known as probiotics. These microorganisms decrease the level of hydrogen sulfide in your mouth, a major cause of bad breath.

4. Yogurt is good for your gums. The same probiotics that help your breath smell better also make your gums healthier. These good bacteria crowd out the bad bacteria in your mouth, including the ones that make your gums swell and bleed. Yogurt helps to ensure that your gums are as healthy as your breath.

5. Yogurt can help heal cold sores. Active bacteria in yogurt can help heal cold sores in your mouth.

Now that you are convinced that you and your child need to eat more yogurt, what yogurt should you eat? It’s important to eat low-sugar yogurts. Probiotic yogurts will help more than those that are not probiotic. Most Greek yogurts come under this heading. To ensure that your yogurt fulfills these criteria, check the label for live cultures before you purchase it.

The good news is that most children like to eat yogurt as part of a meal or as a healthy snack. If you have more questions or concerns about yogurt or other foods and how they affect your child’s teeth, be sure to ask us during your child’s next scheduled checkup.

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Regular Dentist Visits—Yes, They’re Really That Important

Between your child’s practices and projects, and parents’ jobs and family obligations, everyone’s schedule seems impossibly packed. Some calendar slots, though, have to be set aside, no questions asked, for everyone’s sake—and those include taking your child to our office for twice-yearly visits.

Why is it so important for your child to see us at least every six months? Here are some reasons:

  • To get your child used to the dentist. Your child will be seeing a dentist twice a year for life. Going as very young children—we recommend a first visit by the time of your child’s first birthday—and having positive experiences that include being made to feel like a partner in their own dental care sets a beneficial tone for the near and far future.
  • To undergo a professional cleaning. When we clean your child’s teeth, we get rid of plaque that develops even with vigilant at-home brushing. Professional plaque removal reduces the likelihood that your child will develop cavities or gum problems.
  • To receive a fluoride treatment. At regular checkups, we can provide fluoride treatments, if necessary, to help strengthen your child’s teeth.
  • To have a sealant applied. Brushing and flossing can often miss tooth surfaces—especially the deeply creviced areas of molars. We can “paint” plastic-based sealants on your child’s teeth to help keep out food particles and the decay-causing bacteria that feed on them.
  • To have cavities filled. Of course, if your child does develop a cavity, we can catch it and fill it while it is relatively small.
  • To check your child’s bite. A healthy, properly aligned bite means your child will have clearer speech, and will chew more easily and actually get more nutrients out of food. We will check your child’s bite to ensure that it is developing properly.
  • To check for other oral problems in your child’s mouth. We can, for instance, catch gum disease when it’s still reversible. And as children move into adolescence and beyond, we check for any signs of oral cancer.

In short, making regular visits every six months for preventive dental care is much smarter than making rare visits spaced years apart. We can nip potential problems in the bud, and your child learns that dentists are health professionals who are their friends—for life.

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Keep Your Child Clean from Caffeine Addiction

According to recent data, almost 75% of American children consume some form of caffeine on a daily basis—whether it comes from soda, coffee, tea, chocolate or energy drinks. While the jury is still out about whether caffeine causes a true chemical dependence similar to that caused by nicotine or alcohol, psychological dependence and caffeine withdrawal are real issues that too many parents have had to deal with. So in a world where caffeine is seemingly everywhere, how do concerned parents keep their children from becoming caffeine addicts?

Control what you have in the house. As the parent, you hold the purse strings—you control what foods and beverages come into the house. At the risk of being uncool, you can keep soda, energy drinks, and other sources of caffeine out of your home, or at least make sure they have a minimal presence.

Make substitutes readily available. Caffeinated beverages generally provide poor nutrition and hydration. Safer alternatives such as water and milk should always be kept on hand. It’s important to note that diet soda is not a substitute for sugary soda; in many cases, diet soda actually has more caffeine than regular soda.

Watch your children’s behavior, especially at bedtime. Caffeine addiction has been connected to elevated levels of anxiety and insomnia in young people. Are your children staying up too late? Are they more anxious than usual for no reason in particular? Ask your children what they have been drinking, and check your recycling bin to see if it’s filled with soda bottles or cans.

Treat your children like adults. Tell your children the truth about why too much caffeine is bad for them. Do they get dehydrated during basketball practice? Do they have trouble sleeping the night before a big test? Their caffeine intake could be the reason why.

If you feel uncomfortable having that conversation, let us do it during your child’s next visit. We’ve seen it all before and know what to say.

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Rinse Away the Mystery of Children’s Mouthwash

The mouthwash aisle at your local grocery store or pharmacy can be dizzying, stocked with plenty of brands, colors and prices. These days, a variety of products on the shelf specifically marketed toward children feature flavors and labels meant to attract their attention. While mouthwash is not necessary for all children, it is best to know what is appropriate for children if your child is going to use mouthwash.

We do not recommend mouthwash for children younger than 6 years of age. Mouthwash is meant to be swished and spit out, which can be tricky for young children who might be more likely to swallow it. Even if your child knows not to swallow it, a mouthwash that contains too much fluoride and is used too early can lead to a condition called fluorosis that causes changes to the color and texture of teeth.

Mouthwashes fall into two basic categories:

  • Cosmetic mouthwash freshens breath temporarily. Swishing it around can wash away loose bits of food and leave the breath with a fresh, minty scent. Cosmetic mouthwashes, however, do not kill bacteria, nor have they been shown to reduce plaque, gum disease (gingivitis) or cavities.
  • Therapeutic mouthwash, including fluoride rinses, kills bacteria. That not only reduces plaque, gingivitis and cavities but also helps freshen breath over the long term. Most therapeutic mouthwashes for children contain fluoride, which helps reduce tooth decay.

One of the most important things to look for when buying any dental product, including mouthwash, is the seal of the American Dental Association (ADA). That seal on the package means that the ADA has carefully evaluated the claims made on the product and has substantiated them. Therapeutic mouthwashes will likely bear the ADA seal, while cosmetic mouthwashes will not.

At your child’s next appointment, talk with us about whether your child could benefit from using mouthwash. We can assess whether the need exists and suggest the best mouthwash to help your child’s teeth and gums stay healthy.

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Six Easy Ways to Prevent Cavities

Cavities—those holes in our teeth caused by harmful bacteria—are big reasons we see the dentist. We don’t want them. They hurt, they’re ugly and they make it more likely that our teeth will fall out. Preventing cavities is a big job. But even at a young age, your children are up to the task. Here are a few things they can do to prevent cavities without breaking a sweat.

Chew xylitol gum after eating. Gum can help stimulate the flow of extra saliva, which will wash extra sugar off your teeth; xylitol keeps bacteria from sticking to teeth.

Eat cheese. Casein, a protein found in cheese, may actually increase the calcium level in your mouth, making your teeth stronger.

Use a straw to drink sugary soda. We don’t recommend drinking soda because it causes the problems we’re trying to prevent, but if your children must have a soda, they should sip it through a straw. Why? The straw prevents the fluid from actually touching the teeth. Sure, your child is still consuming all those empty calories, but at least his or her teeth aren’t being sprayed with sugar.

Eat apples. Despite being a sweet fruit, apples are high in fiber, which stimulates the gums and causes saliva flow, reducing the amount of harmful particles in your mouth.

Have sealants applied. Sealants literally seal off the teeth—especially the molars—from harmful particles. These protective coatings applied to the surface of your back teeth prevent plaque and bacteria from finding a place to live inside your teeth, making cavities far less likely to form.

Brush and floss every day. To make this easier for your child, try playing games, using themed toothbrushes and flavored toothpaste to build up the excitement. Brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day always have been—and still are—the best ways to prevent cavities.

Need more suggestions? Ask us for more cavity-fighting hints during your child’s next visit.

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