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Getting Braces: How to Find an Orthodontist You Can Trust

Beautiful braces smileFirst things first: I hope you had a wonderful holiday. My 9-year-old daughter, Kate, believes in Santa, so the last couple of weeks at the end of the year were filled with wonderful anticipation (“Will he bring me a Harry Potter wand?”) and good behavior (the Santa card is better than any time-out chair). Speaking of magical creatures that leave presents, Kate is also fond of her visits from the tooth fairy. And that brings me to what I’d love to share with you today.

I wasn’t prepared for what happened at her pediatric dentist’s office recently during a routine cleaning. Her dentist checked the teeth for cavities (none – yay!), put on a couple of sealants, told her she needs to floss a little better (we’re working on that), and then the surprise: She handed me a couple of business cards for local orthodontists. I must have stood there with my mouth wide open, but words weren’t coming out. What was in my head: My kid has lots of baby teeth left! Why on Earth would she need to see an orthodontist now? The dentist suggested that Kate get a consultation before her next visit – and then got called away for an emergency.

I’m sure I could have phoned the dentist the next day to follow up, but I hit the Web instead. And I found out that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that kids see an orthodontist by age 7 to check for crowded teeth or misaligned bites. The crowded-teeth issue actually rang a bell; I remember from previous visits that Kate’s dentist suspected that her mouth might be too small for her big-kid chompers. But I was still feeling uneasy because I’ve heard from my friends who have older kids that you can go to three orthodontists and get three different opinions. So I decided to call Ted Sherwin, a family dentist in Orange, Va., and spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry, for some straight answers.

Sherwin acknowledged that it can be difficult for parents to reconcile the treatment recommendations from various orthodontists, but he also pointed out: “There is more than one path to successful results.” Hmm. Sherwin added that an orthodontist recommendation from a family dentist you trust is golden. And you don’t have to stop there. After a little more digging, I found that HealthGrades.com, an independent website, allows patients to comment on the medical or dental care they receive from a particular practitioner.

As it turned out, one of the business cards Kate’s dentist handed me was for an orthodontist that my friend had also recommended. With two thumbs up, it seemed smart to try him first. We’ve got an appointment in a few weeks.

In the meantime, Kate is eagerly anticipating another visit from the tooth fairy. “Do you think that instead of giving me money, she can get Daniel Radcliffe to call me?” asked Kate. My response: “No, sweetie, the tooth fairy doesn’t take special requests.”

A Key Tool in Flu Prevention: Your Child’s Elbow

Children Flu Sneeze Elbow SickYou can help stop cold and flu season in its tracks by helping your child learn to take a hands-free approach to hygiene. In other words, teach your little one to cough and sneeze into the crook of the elbow instead of into the hand.

Here’s why: If your child blocks a sneeze with his hands, the germs then spread to anything he touches – desks, chairs and pencils – and they can remain contagious for several hours.

And it doesn’t take much of a sneeze to start the spread of germs. Just one “achoo” releases thousands of infectious droplets into the air. It’s no wonder scientists estimate that about 80 percent of infections are transmitted by hand!

You can help make this stay-healthy strategy a habit by designating a “sneeze spot” on your kid’s sleeve with a sticker. But why is the elbow the safest spot to catch a cough? Unlike the hand, it doesn’t touch much of anything.

Finally, make sure your whole family does the elbow sneeze all year long – not just during cold and flu season – to remind your child to follow suit.

My Middleschooler has Frequent Headaches – Should I Worry?

Preteens and teens often suffer from frequent headaches. There are many potential causes of headaches, and it is often difficult to determine why they occur. Here’s what to do and when to worry:

1. Take your child to the pediatrician. A physical exam can eliminate somewhat obvious issues, such as hypertension or visual problems.

2. Have your child keep a “headache diary.” It may help to document when headaches occur, how long they last, what makes them milder and what circumstances surround their onset. If a triggering event such as diet, stress or anxiety consistently occurs before a headache, treatment and prevention become much easier. If nothing is evident in the diary, medical tests may be necessary.

3. Get medical attention. A series of symptoms require more advanced medical attention, including:

  • Worst-headache-of-my-life symptoms
  • Headaches occurring with exertion
  • Headaches associated with nausea or vomiting
  • A stiff neck
  • Seizures
  • Recent head trauma before the onset of the headache
  • Blurred vision, slurred speech or serious behavioral changes
  • Increasing frequency
  • Headaches that impair daily functioning

10 Cold & Flu Kid-soothing Secrets

The average kid suffers through eight colds a year, which means that all parents become well versed in nursing a miserable, sniffling child back to health. That’s why we turned to the experts — real moms and dads like you — for their go-to moves for easing symptoms, entertaining bored kids and staying sane during sick season. The next time your little one is under the weather, try using a few of these tips and tricks:

  1. Find restful activities.
    “To keep my 21-month-old son entertained when he’s under the weather, I focus on activities he can do while seated, like puzzles, coloring books and stickers. We also work on little skills, like “pull off your sock’ or “try to get your slipper on by yourself.’ It sounds small, but it keeps him resting while he’s occupied. I also let him watch TV and play with my iPhone or iPad: Since he’s usually not allowed to do those things, it’s a big treat.” — Brooke Lea Foster, parenting blogger (MommyMoi)
  2. Serve up cold-fighting foods.
    “I feed my kids meals that help boost their immune system and speed the healing process: foods rich in vitamin A (carrots and broccoli), vitamin C (pineapple, strawberries and OJ) and zinc (whole-grain cereal, lean meat and beans). Getting enough fluids is also crucial, so I encourage them to drink water and sip soup. My mom makes the best chicken soup, and she always drops off a batch when someone is sidelined with a cold.” — Elisa Zied, registered dietician with a master’s degree, author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips and Feed Your Family Right!, founder/president of Zied Health Communications
  3. Scrub right way.
    “To prevent the spread of germs throughout the house and to yourself, instruct your kids to wash their hands regularly. Studies show that kids typically only run the water for five seconds and leave with their hands dripping wet, which isn’t effective. Teach them to sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ or say their ABCs as the scrub up, and dry their hands thoroughly on a clean towel afterwards.
    Also make sure that you do the same — only 30 percent of adults hit the sink after coughing or sneezing! If you sometimes forget, consider leaving a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer right outside of your sick child’s room.” — Harley Rotbart, M.D., professor and vice chairman of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Denver, author of Germ Proof Your Kids, father of three
  4. Ask for a hand.
    “To keep my own sanity when the kids are sick, I call in the reserves! My mother-in-law lives locally, so she’s a big help and a fun person to visit when the kids can’t play with their buddies. I might plan an outing for the evening — maybe a movie with girlfriends — so I have something to look forward to after being cooped up in the house all day.I also ask my husband for assistance. We recently had to give our 2-year-old daughter eye drops, and it was a team effort. My husband held and distracted her, while I applied the medicine and repeated the word “gentle” to calm her down. When we finished, we clapped, sang and danced, and all was forgotten in no time.” — Elizabeth Detmer, mom of two
  5. Provide comfort.
    “During a cold, the main goal is to keep your child comfortable — dressing in light layers and turning down the thermostat if necessary. Sometimes I’ll run a cooling bath to provide some relief and, if necessary, offer ibuprofen or acetaminophen for a fever.” — Dr. Hannah Chow, pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago
  6. Break out special treats.
    When my two kids are sick, I bring out a goody bag that I keep for rainy days or when they’ve been especially good. It’s usually just filled with stuff that I’ve picked up at sales, like activity packs, puzzles, small toys and other seasonal crafts.
    In the evenings, I’ll warm up apple cider, ginger tea with honey and lemon or vanilla soymilk, which is soothing. I try to cater to my kids when they’re under the weather, because being sick is no fun.” — Joanne Kim, mom of two
  7. Fluff an extra pillow.
    “My 4-year-old has an abundance of energy, so I know he’s sick when he actually slows down. To clear up his stuffy nose, I use a saline spray and prop an extra pillow under his head to help him breathe easier while he’s sleeping.
    I’ve also taught him how to sneeze into the crook of his elbow so that he doesn’t spread germs. It’s hard to take care of a little one when you’re sick too!” — Holly Tillotson, mom of one
  8. Freeze popsicles.
    “Cold popsicles help soothe sore throats. Try making your own from drinks that also provide a dose of vitamin C, like orange juice and fresh berry smoothies.” — Sarah Krieger, registered dietitian who holds a master’s in public health, clinical pediatric dietitian in the community education department of All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association
  9. Play it on repeat.
    “Although it can drive me crazy, I let my kids watch their favorite movies as many times as they want. My 3-year-old daughter just had a stomach bug and watched Tangled three times over two days. I knew she was feeling better when she got up to sing and even dance a little during the song “Mother Knows Best.” — Betsy Stephens, blogger (Working for Cookies)
  10. Bend the rules.
    “My biggest advice for our own sanity as moms is to drop the demands. Let me explain: As parents, we ask our kids to do things, from the simple ‘drink your milk’ to the complex ‘clean your room.’ Then we have to follow through and make sure they listen to us. When kids are sick, they’re less able to do as we say, because they’re cranky and miserable. Any little thing can trigger a meltdown. So it makes sense to table regular requests (pick up your toys), but follow through on anything that you do ask (put the tissue in the trash can). This approach will make it easier for children to transition back to meeting your behavior expectations when they’re feeling better.” — Carin Daddino, former special education teacher and mom of two

In an Emergency, Please Wait – EMS Will Be There!

It is a beautiful Friday afternoon and my unit is dispatched on a 53 year old female having a seizure. Nothing seems out of the ordinary until we find out that the patient is a passenger in a car that is being driven by her daughter who is speeding while on the phone with 911 and ignoring the advice of the dispatcher and the police car next to her telling her to pull over or go to the closest hospital. The story ends with the daughter driving a very long way home, passing 2 hospitals, all while having a car full of hysterical family who meet us at their home and let us examine the patient only after they have carried her into the house against our advice yet again. Thankfully in the end, everyone was ok but this type of scene is not an uncommon one.

It is a normal reaction to panic when an emergency happens, but the decision to call 911 or to drive the person to the hospital yourself should be weighed very carefully. There are situations where you can calmly put a person in your car and calmly drive them to the hospital and then there are the situations like the one I described above or the one you see in movies all the time with the pregnant wife screaming and panic has taken over and all regard for safety has gone out the window and something terrible may happen. To avoid situations like these we ask you to wait. We ask you to wait for the emergency responders who will show up quickly and manage all the panic and give the best possible care and make sure everyone gets to the hospital safely. The back of a rescue truck or ambulance is a much better place to be should something change for the worse that would cause even more panic and reckless driving had you chosen not to wait.

As always I advocate when in doubt call 911. It is why we are there and it is much easier for us to find an address than it is for us to find a moving car. Please do not put the lives of you and your loved ones in jeopardy, please call and wait, we will be there!

I hope you all have a happy and safe 2024.

Is Endodontics Right for Your Child…Do Root Canals & Kids Mix?

When a child feels pain in a tooth at random for no reason, has hot or cold sensitivity or breaks their tooth and exposes what we call the pulp, he or she may need endodontic treatment. Endontic treatment consists of several types of procedures. They are classified in two groups: vital pulp therapy (where the tooth can be saved) and non vital pulp therapy ie. a root canal (where the tooth is essentially considered “dead”).

Endodontics are necessary when the pulp and nerve of the tooth are affected by decay or some sort of damage. The pulp of your tooth not only houses the nerve, it also contains blood vessels that supply your tooth with nutrients and oxygen it needs to stay healthy. Endodontic treatment is performed essentially to save the tooth.

Endodontic treatment can be done on both baby and permanent teeth.

It can be performed by any trained dentist general or specialist but be discriminating. Parents often think that because baby teeth fall out eventually that it’s not important to perform these types of procedures on them.

Contrary to that popular belief, baby teeth have several crucial functions. They hold spaces for permanent teeth and are also very important for chewing and speaking.

Because there are several types of pulp therapies (described above), you should consult your dentist to ensure this type of treatment is right for your child. The other option you have is to get your child’s tooth extracted. There are several things to consider when you are weighing these two options: which tooth is affect, approximately how long until it falls out on its own, how damaged it is and whether or not gum or bone have been affected.

Another factor to consider is whether or not your child has any serious medical conditions. In these cases, infection can be more serious. If the tooth is infected there is the possibility that the surrounding bone and gum tissue could also develop an infection after endodontic therapy.

Finally, we want to assure you that some soreness is normal after endodontic therapy and should be manageable with over the counter pain relievers that are safe for children.