Don’t Let Winter Sports Spoil Your Child’s Smile

Winter is here, and with it comes winter sports and other cold weather activities. Your child may want to put on a pair of skates and play hockey, or you may take the family to the slopes for sledding, skiing and snowboarding. As is the case with many sports, these wintertime activities put your child at risk for dental trauma. And while we can treat many dental injuries, we’re confident you don’t want to spend your child’s winter break in our office.

Children who play high-contact sports—hockey, for example—may already wear mouthguards. But we recommend mouthguards for many sports and activities that you might not associate with mouth injuries, such as skiing, sledding, snowboarding, skating and more.

Mouthguards come in three varieties:

  • Stock. Ready-to-wear mouthguards may seem convenient, but they frequently do not fit properly and can make breathing difficult.
  • Boil-and-bite. Also sold over the counter, these mouthguards take the approximate shape of your child’s mouth. After you soften the mouthguard in boiling water, your child bites down on it, which molds it to your child’s bite.
  • Custom made. We take impressions of your child’s teeth in our office, and then send them to a manufacturer that can fabricate a mouthguard to precisely fit your child’s mouth.

A properly fitting mouthguard is especially important for children who wear braces. Not only can facial trauma damage the braces but damaged braces can also injure your child’s mouth. A mouthguard adds a critical layer of protection.

It is also important that your child properly care for the mouthguard. He or she should rinse it before and after each use, and always store it in a well-ventilated container to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Treating a missing tooth is approximately 20 times more expensive than is investing in a good mouthguard—and we can help you choose the best one. If you have questions about how to best protect your child’s teeth or would like us to make a custom-fitted mouthguard, call our office for an appointment. We will review with you best practices to help ensure that your child’s smile is protected during winter games and activities.

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Congratulations! Your Newborn Has … Teeth?

A baby actually born to run, to paraphrase the Springsteen song, would be an anomaly indeed. But some babies are born to teethe—or, more specifically, born with teeth that have already emerged from their tiny gumlines. Although statistics vary concerning the prevalence of this condition, the best estimates suggest that one out of every 2,000 babies born has at least one “natal tooth.” So, what should you know about these teeth?

A trend toward natal teeth may run in families, and slightly more girls than boys have them. The most common position of the natal tooth (or, very rarely, teeth) is the lower front, followed by the top front. Natal molars are extremely uncommon.

The cause of a natal tooth may also be related to a nutritional deficiency during pregnancy or an irregularity in the baby’s dentin (a component of the teeth). In other cases, natal teeth may be associated with a known but rare condition, such as Sotos syndrome or Pierre Robin sequence, or with cleft palate. In such instances, your child’s pediatrician will advise you about managing your baby’s overall health, including the natal teeth.

Often, there is no reason to actively manage the tooth situation—the tooth isn’t impeding the baby’s feeding habits, it’s not hurting her tongue and it has deep enough roots that it won’t fall out anytime soon, thus presenting no choking hazard.

Should x-rays reveal that the tooth or teeth have short (or no) roots, the baby could accidentally swallow the tooth if it dislodges, which could block the airway. In these cases, extraction would be necessary. Sometimes the tooth extraction is performed in the hospital just after birth, before the baby goes home.

Even rarer than natal teeth are neonatal teeth, which erupt in the first month after birth. They, too, must be evaluated for their root structures.

A newborn with teeth might be quite a surprise (and, if you are nursing, it may be a somewhat uncomfortable surprise, too). But we can help you and your child with this issue, along with all the other common and uncommon dental situations that may arise throughout your baby’s first years.

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Help Your Children Brush Plaque Away

You probably know that plaque is harmful to your children’s teeth. But plaque can’t be seen—it’s invisible. Plaque-disclosing tablets and solutions, however, dye this sticky film, making it visible to you and your children. That makes them great tools to improve your children’s dental health.

Here are a few ways you can use plaque-disclosing tablets and solutions to encourage your children to take better care of their gums and teeth:

Point out problem areas
Because plaque-disclosing tablets and solutions dye plaque blue or pink or other easily visible colors, they allow you to see how well your children have brushed and flossed. You can then show them which areas they are missing, so that they brush better in the future.

Make a game out of it
Children enjoy competition. Set a goal for plaque reduction, and offer a reward for successfully eliminating the plaque from their teeth. This encourages healthier dental hygiene habits. Maybe offer them additional rewards if they keep up the good work for an extended period of time. Keep increasing the time span between rewards to test their improvement. Eventually, they should become very good brushers and flossers.

Use other plaque-disclosing devices
In addition to tablets and solutions, there are dental swabs and flosses that change colors when exposed to plaque. Using these tools, you can show your children how they are removing plaque from their teeth. This helps them understand their dental health better. They may even have fun getting the colorful dye—and plaque—off their teeth and onto something else. Once they know that the dyed substance is something they want out of their mouths, the process of removing it becomes more enjoyable, because they can see it happening.

For more tips about how to use plaque-disclosing tablets and solutions to improve your children’s dental health, be sure to ask us during their next scheduled checkup.

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What’s Your Tooth IQ?

Human beings get only two sets of teeth in their lifetime—a first set of 20 primary (“baby”) teeth and a second set of 32 permanent teeth. Here are 20 fun facts about your teeth, one for each of your child’s first set. Test your knowledge—and your family’s—with these amazing tooth truths.

1. The enamel on the top surface of your teeth is the hardest part of your entire body.

2. Even though you typically can’t see them, your teeth are already present when you are born.

3. No two sets of teeth have the exact same shape, size and alignment—your teeth are as unique as your fingerprints.

4. Assuming that you brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes each time, you will spend about 76 days of your life brushing your teeth.

5. If you floss once a day, you will use more than five miles of floss in your lifetime.

6. Brushing cleans only 60% of tooth surfaces; to clean the other 40%, you need to floss.

7. Even though you should brush your teeth for 240 seconds a day (2 minutes, twice a day), the average person brushes for only 45 to 70 seconds a day.

8. By age 17, 78% of Americans will have had at least 1 cavity.

9. People who drink three or more glasses of soda each day have 62% more tooth decay, fillings and tooth loss than those who don’t.

10. More people use blue toothbrushes than use red ones.

11. Heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis have been linked to oral health.

12. Dental plaque includes more than 300 types of bacteria.

13. Your mouth is home to at least 100 million tiny creatures.

14. In an average lifetime, a person produces more than 25,000 quarts of saliva.

15. Some studies have shown that right-handed people tend to chew predominantly on the right side of their mouths, while left-handed people chew predominantly on their left.

16. Dogs typically have 42 teeth, cats 30, pigs 44, giant armadillos up to 100 and some snails more than 20,000.

17. An elephant’s molar can weigh more than 8 lbs.

18. George Washington supposedly wore dentures made from gold, hippopotamus tusk, elephant ivory and human teeth.

19. The earliest known dentist, Hesy-Ra, lived in Egypt more than 4,500 years ago.

20. Archeologists have found evidence of dental fillings in teeth from people who lived 7,500 years ago.

How many of these facts did you and your family know? To brush up on your tooth knowledge—and health—make sure your children visit us for a checkup at least twice a year.

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Too Much of a Good Thing: Fluoride and Fluorosis

What could possibly be wrong with an additive that prevents tooth decay—one that toothpaste manufacturers wouldn’t dream of excluding? We’re talking about fluoride, a mineral compound that strengthens tooth enamel. But how much should your children really be exposed to?

Fluoride has the power to defend tooth enamel against potentially destructive acids created by mouth bacteria, which are nourished by microscopic food particles. In the right quantities, fluoride is invaluable for fighting tooth decay. However, too much fluoride has a dark side. Children who consume an excess of fluoride during their first 8 years of life may develop permanent teeth with pitting and/or stains—the result of fluorosis.

Fluorosis is mainly a cosmetic issue rather than a true health concern; however, it can and should be avoided. Staining can be mild, almost undetectable, but in a small minority of cases, it can be anywhere from noticeable to prominent, depending on the degree to which a child’s teeth are affected. Surprisingly, stains can be white as well as yellow or brown.

Unfortunately, fluorosis is irreversible, although corrective procedures, such as bonding, veneers and bleaching, are available for visible cases. Ultimately, prevention is key—and here’s how to accomplish it:

  • Watch the water. If your local tap water has a fluoride content higher than 2 parts per million, you should serve your children bottled, non-fluoridated water. Remember, too, that other beverages (e.g., some juices and soft drinks) and certain foods may contain fluoride.
  • Use the right toothpaste and technique. A pea-sized drop of toothpaste on the toothbrush is all that is necessary for your child. Make sure he or she understands that toothpaste is to be used only for its intended purpose, and ensure that the toothpaste is spit out rather than swallowed. To prevent furtive consumption, keep toothpaste out of reach when it is not in use. At your child’s next appointment, we can discuss recommendations for fluoridated toothpaste based on your child’s age.
  • Avoid certain dental products. For a variety of safety reasons, children younger than 8 years old should not use mouth rinses—whether fluoridated or not—even under adult supervision, unless we prescribe one.

As your child gets older, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of fluoride treatments. But for our youngest patients, preventing fluorosis is our goal where this mineral is concerned.

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How Well Does Your Child Sleep?

As adults, we often envy how well our children sleep. We even say we “slept like a baby” to refer to a good, long, restorative sleep. But not all children sleep well. Snoring, mouth breathing and teeth grinding are common childhood habits that can have consequences in adulthood, and they may be signs of sleep-related breathing disorders.

Depending on the issue, we may be able to find a solution for you and your child. Come to our office if your child suffers from any of the following problems:

  • Snoring. A child who breathes through the mouth because of a blockage of air may snore loudly. This is not uncommon among children. Although it is often a sign of a respiratory infection, stuffy nose or allergy, snoring can also be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea. Should your child gasp or have pauses in breathing, he or she may need to see a sleep specialist.
  • Mouth breathing. When nasal breathing is blocked, a child’s face may develop differently, or the child may develop temporomandibular joint disorder. Mouth breathing can also affect your child’s heart rate and blood pressure. Causes of mouth breathing include swollen tonsils and allergies, both of which can be treated by a specialist. Orthodontic treatment may help, as well.
  • Teeth grinding. Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding (at night) is estimated to be prevalent in two to three out of every 10 children. Often caused by anxiety, teeth grinding can lead to earaches, facial pain and jaw problems. Although most children outgrow this problem, a dental examination can provide a more accurate diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, we may recommend a mouthguard to prevent the wearing away of tooth enamel from nighttime grinding.

Sleep problems should not be taken lightly. While some children may outgrow them, these problems may lead to more serious issues in adulthood. Should your child frequently experience fitful sleep, let us know so that we can uncover the cause and help you both sleep like a baby.

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