Is My Child At Risk For Cavities?

One of a parent’s biggest worries when taking their child to the dentist is whether or not he or she will have any cavities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children ages 2 to 11 years old. When tooth decay becomes severe, it can lead to the need for extensive dental work, including fillings, crowns, and even root canals on young children. Parents should be aware that their child could be at risk for developing cavities, and that there are ways to keep your kids’ mouths healthy and cavity-free.

Floss for a lifetime of healthy teethTooth decay, also known as dental caries, is an infection caused by the bacteria mutans streptococcus, which is very commonly found in the mouth. This group of bacteria can easily be transferred from parents to their children by sharing utensils or toothbrushes. Parents who have several cavities themselves should be especially wary of this. While it is easy to forget and eat off the same spoon as your toddler, remember that you can be giving him germs that could lead to trouble down the road.

One of the more commonly thought of reasons for cavities in children is their tendency to eat candy and sugary snacks. Constant snacking, excessive amounts of soda or juice, and candy that contains high amounts of sugar certainly contribute to tooth decay. The bacteria that cause tooth decay feed on sugar, and then produce plaque that contains acid. This acid eats away at tooth enamel, weakening the tooth structure and depleting calcium. The lack of calcium causes the surface of the tooth to collapse, thus resulting in a cavity. The more sugar that goes into a child’s mouth, the more likely plaque is going to find a home on his teeth. Sippy cups and bottles are especially bad for teeth, as children tend to carry them around and drink out of them constantly throughout the day.

Another reason why children are so prone to cavities is because their primary teeth, or baby teeth, are much more fragile than permanent teeth. The enamel on primary teeth is weak and porous, which makes it much easier for them to be broken down by plaque. Not all primary teeth with cavities may need fillings, as these teeth will fall out eventually. However, many dentists may recommend fillings if it is too early for the tooth to fall out. Fillings also prevent infection from spreading and relieve your child from any pain he might be having from a cavity.

You can help your kids have healthy teeth by decreasing the amount of sugar they consume, keeping up with at-home care, and making regular visits to the dentist. Brushing and flossing your child’s teeth is important, and should be started as early as the first baby tooth erupts. Check-ups and cleanings ensure the removal of pesky plaque that has built up, and your dentist may also recommend sealants to protect your child’s teeth from further infection.

Starting healthy habits at an early age can drastically decrease your child’s likelihood to develop cavities. Ask your dentist for more tips on childhood oral healthcare, so that the next time you take your child in for an appointment, you aren’t sitting at the edge of your seat at the possibility of a cavity.

Kid’s Companion for Special Needs

Editor’s Note: We first introduced you to Kid’s Companion Chewelry for special needs children in January, 2010. Since then the company and mom-founder have expanded their product range and added items for babies and toddlers. We thought it was worth another introduction to this company that emphasizes benefits for kids with sensory issues along with safety and environmental responsibility.


A common thread for many mom entrepreneurs is the stories that have made our companies. This is mine. It’s the story of the HeartString Kid Companion. One little item that gives peace of mind to caregivers and a shot of confidence to special needs youth. Let me tell you how…

One day, with two growing children, I noticed that my daughter, with Tourette’s Syndrome Kids Companionand sensory issues, very much appreciated a clay heart pendant I had made for her teething sister. Maybe it should be noted that my university background is in health sciences, but I also am a jeweler (my creative side I guess). As I watched, it struck me that my 3 year old couldn’t chew and fidget discreetly while my nursing infant could tug and teeth to her hearts’ content. After a few comments from parents, phone calls to child healthcare professionals and fruitless product searches, I realized that other parents were looking for such accessories, especially for their special needs children.

This began our journey. It was 2006 and the road ahead would be long with many challenges we’d need to overcome. As a mother, I wanted to see my children happy. Part of having a happy special needs youth is having one that functions well at school, at play and especially, as best she can with her peers. With time, needing to belong to her peer group would become more and more important. That meant creating something that was chewable and tuggable while still being “cool” enough to blend in. Finally, we had a solution….a durable, colorful, non-toxic pendant that was safe to chew on…something that could help any child be him/herself, anytime, anywhere. We called it the HeartString Kid Companion.

Years of research and development went into making this a product we could truly be proud of, from finding materials for the design idea to testing prototypes and final parts. Since our products are developed for infant use, we wanted FDA approved, North American sourced/made and socially responsible materials. THAT was a tall order, but we did it! We have followed ASTM standards and have passed the new (and future) CPSIA 3rd party testing. We have our 3rd Party Certificate documenting the safety standards met. We even keep a record of all MSDS certificates from our suppliers.

In the end, we learned a lot. From injection molding, to lab testing, to exporting and distribution channels… logistics, FDA and marketing. Our business skills are becoming honed and our knowledge of the maternity/paternity and infant market is increasing daily. With the many legal and marketing loopholes we encounter, we see how important it is, that companies like ours press on with their values. (…that is a whole other story…)

Ultimately we had one goal in mind for the time-strapped parent: In a world of increasing uncertainty about children product safety, The Kid’s Companion would give parents peace of mind.

  • A custom breakaway clasp will release and can be re-attached with ease – a feature that guards against strangulation, even at play.
  • 18” or 20″ necklaces (lanyards) are made with durable and washable rayon/cotton that is dyed with safe non-toxic dyes.
  • Pendants all pass small parts test and are actually around 2” to eliminate any possibility of choking
  • Pendant and clasp materials are medical grade, BPA/phthalates free, Lead free, Latex free and Cadmium free.
  • Everything can be washed!! (Pendants are even dishwasher safe).

Even more important…we discovered a way to help a child whose special needs might easily set them apart… find a way to fit in. For my daughter…for other children…we are making a difference…

Healthful Hints

There are a number of different types of products to help your child overcome sensory issues. Often recommended by both parents and occupational therapists are the following:

Many children with sensory issues like to put things in their mouth. To keep them safe:

  • Check if the product complies with safety regulations for child care articles!
  • Avoid PVC and plastic items with enamel or paint. Especially those at economy stores.
  • Do not rely on retailers or manufacturers to meet voluntary standards, or even to comply with mandatory standards. Request Proof. Get informed. Supply chains notoriously have holes.
  • As with the Kid’s Companion, make sure the items are too large to be swallowed and can easily be sanitized (i.e. dishwasher safe or machine-washable).
  • Replace any damaged products before they break, tear or can become small parts.

As always, if you’re introducing something new to your child’s routine, check with your child’s pediatrician, therapist or teacher first.

This Saturday, MUPPETS MOST WANTED is Sensory Friendly

Sensory Friendly Films logoOnce a month, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and with other special needs ”Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings“ – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy their favorite “family-friendly” films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! “It can be challenging enough to bring ANY child to a movie theater” Muppets Most Wantedsays PedSafe Special Needs Parenting Expert Rosie Reeves. “For a parent with a special needs child attempting an outing like this may seem overwhelming. And yet getting out, being with the community and sharing in an experience with an audience can be invaluable for just such children”.

On Saturday March 29th at 10am local time, Muppets Most Wanted will be screened as part of the Autism Society “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” program (although not in 3D for our Sensory Friendly audiences). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming April 19th: Rio 2


Editor’s note: Although Muppets Most Wanted has been chosen by the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly screening, it has been rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for mild action. As always, please check the IMDB Parent’s Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 03-17-2014 to 03-23-2014

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 10 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Children and Accidental Poisonings: What You NEED to Know Please Read, Save & Pass this on!

Diagnosing ADD or ADHD: a Pediatrician’s Perspective

Visiting the doctorWe have all been exposed to ADD or some form of it for many years now. It is a very common “diagnosis” and it is usually the teacher, parent or physician who initially brings up the subject about your child. ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is suggested and even diagnosed based on clinical (observational) criteria. This is to be distinguished from other medical issues for which one can run specific tests. It, however, is not the only diagnosis which describes children who are very impulsive, hyperactive, unable to concentrate on any topic, and are underachievers in school in spite of being very bright beginning under seven years of age and who is seen to have these same issues in different social settings such as school, home, groups (church, scouts, etc.) consistently.

You may recognize these “symptoms” as very common observations in children in general, but when it becomes an issue significant enough to disrupt the family and school function it is something that should be evaluated. There are many issues for which these symptoms apply to children; learning disabilities, emotional disorders, mental retardation, psychological illnesses, and these can all be confused within the same child. To make matters worse, two or more of these can exist at the same time in the same child.

A suspicion of ADD or ADHD is the first step in determining the problem. There are many questionnaires that parents and teachers are asked to fill out that can point in the direction of this problem. First though, is a complete exam by your child’s primary care physician. His/her input is very important as it is up to him or her to coordinate the further evaluation and treatment (if necessary) of this problem.

A very careful and thorough evaluation should be done because of the variety of other problems (see above) that can mimic this disorder. Your Doctor will probably require certain testing to be done, up to and including a full, and expensive neuropsychological evaluation. This kind of evaluation can help pinpoint some of the more pertinent issues and rule out some symptoms that could point in the wrong direction. Therefore, this is not usually a diagnosis that is made on your first or even second visit to your Doctor.

Many feel that this disorder is becoming much more prevalent; I really don’t feel this is the case. Many conditions that were passed over in the past are now recognized as part of an attentional deficit subgroup. The level of awareness in the general population and in teachers and Physicians particularly has been raised, and what was considered something that children would just “grow out of” is now recognized more often as early attentional problems. There have also been an explosion of testing materials (questionaires, etc) and medication for treatment.

When the issue is thoroughly evaluated, the methods of “treatment” usually are condensed to educational, psychological, and/or medication. All are important if the situation points in this direction in order to grasp the concept and use all means to help these children get through this very frustrating problem.

In one of the next several posts I will try to delve into the three approaches as mentioned above.

Good Reasons Why You and Your Kids Should “Eat Your Colors”

There are at least 2 good reasons to talk about nutrition this week…one is that this is National Nutrition Month. The other is that spring officially starts tomorrow, March 20th! Any signal that this challenging winter is coming to an end is welcome, and now we can start thinking about the good tasting and healthy abundance of fresh produce that will soon come available locally.

Now I’m not a nutritionist, but as part of my studies for a Masters degree in Public Health, I have done in-depth research on the benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption, and have made significant – but not always successful – efforts to increase the amount and variety of produce we eat in our family, as a result of what I’ve learned.

Guidelines for Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

Many people recall earlier public health nutrition campaigns for “5 a Day” servings of fruit and vegetables. But the new MyPlate recommendations call for greatly increased servings of produce: to about 3 cups a day for older children (equivalent to 6 servings under the old system) and 4-5 cups for teens, women and men – equivalent to 8-10 of the old fruit and veggie servings! There are now also weekly guidelines for different classes of vegetables, such as dark green, red/orange and starchy, since emerging research suggests eating a variety of vegetables gives added benefit.

So why the big change?

Data Behind Increased Recommendations

When guidelines are issued to the public, they are “mostly” frozen in time. Yet research continues to advance. And significant evidence from numerous studies around the world has been growing to suggest that with fruit and veggies….more is better!

A 2012 paper which integrated the findings from over 200 studies of the impact of low produce consumption on risk for a range of diseases, found a probable link for obesity and cancer; and a convincing link for high blood pressure, heart disease (number one killer worldwide) and stroke. Fruit and vegetable intake had a possible link with a whole host of diseases, from rheumatoid arthritis to asthma to cataracts and dementia. Stronger assessments for these diseases were not feasible due to the number and type of studies conducted to date.

To add a little more punch to these findings, a 2006 paper reported that across 9 research studies, each additional serving of fruit and vegetables eaten per day decreased heart disease risk by 4%. A recent study that followed participants for 13 years found that the overall mortality rate decreased in a step-wise fashion for each increase in daily produce consumption – with an average 3-year difference in lifespan between the lowest and highest produce consumers!

And these results are not limited to adults. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2009, showed that the impact of fruit and vegetable consumption on blood markers for heart disease could already be identified in teens from 13 to 17 years of age. Takeaway message: there’s no time like the present to boost your family’s fruit and vegetable intake!

Addressing the “How” Challenge

As with so many things in life, the “how” of helping one’s family to eat more fruit and veggies is the real challenge…dealing with everything from kid (and adult) resistance to simply buying and preparing so much produce day in and day out! Here are a few ideas and resources to help support your efforts and engage your kids in “eating your colors.”

For Parents

  • Produce delivery companies – Farmer’s markets are great sources of fresh produce, but check to see if you have any organizations that deliver local or regional produce right to your door. Here in Indiana (and several neighboring states) we have a great company called Green BEAN Delivery who source locally and beyond to get the best quality and value fruit and veggies.
  • Mix in long lasting produce – root vegetables like beets, carrots and turnip – along with winter squash and citrus fruit tend to last longer than other varieties – so you can always keep some on hand
  • Fruit/Vegetables at every meal – try to have some produce for breakfast, lunch and dinner – even just some berries or some tomato wedges – and aim for different colors to get a variety of nutrients (MyPlate recommends that fruit and vegetables make up “half your plate”)
  • Plan/Prepare ahead – we prepare and cook vegetables on the weekend and keep them in the fridge to microwave and use during busy weeknight dinners
  • Use a tracker – resources like USDA’s SuperTracker and the MyFitnessPal app can help you keep track of what you are eating – including fruit/vegetables. These are probably too complex for kids, but might be of interest for teens as well.

For Kids

  • Produce calculator – the CDC has an easy calculator to show how many servings of fruit and veggies a person should eat based on age, gender and activity level. Anyone can use this, but I found it helpful with my 11yr old son to show him how much produce he really should be eating. Then for fun we started counting at meals to see how well he could do to reach the target.
  • Fun food sites and games
    • BAM! Body and Mind (from the CDC) – the Dining Decisions game is good for younger kids, and the site has other information for kids
    • Nourish Interactive has a range of Chef Solus games and other great info for kids and parents
    • Fuel Up to Play 60 – from the NFL and National Dairy Council, with the USDA
  • Recipes – try kid-friendly cookbooks (we have the Disney and Harry Potter cookbooks) and these recipes from Kid’s Health. BAM! Body and Mind also has easy kid recipes.