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Should Kids “Motor Mouth”? (do they need an electric toothbrush?)

Has your dentist recommended an electric toothbrush for your child?

Why spend the money? You didn’t have one and turned out just fine, right? Well you may not have had a car seat as a child either but does that mean it was right?

Clinical research shows that electric toothbrushes are far superior to manual brushing when it comes to removing plaque and preventing gum disease. Children who lack the understanding of proper brushing or the motor skills necessary to do so are given a much more effective way to maintain good dental health. It is important to instill the behavior of good oral hygiene habits early to promote a life long understanding. Your child may begin with an electric toothbrush as soon as he/she is able to hold it steady and firmly.

Starting your child with a basic, colorful electric toothbrush is recommended.

There is an assortment of toothbrushes with your child’s favorite characters or princesses available that will help encourage use. If your child already uses a manual toothbrush, they may not be interested in the switch. Any brushing is better than none so if the transition doesn’t go well, you can always try again later.

Of the many electric toothbrushes, there are also many features offered and the cost can vary from $15-$200. It is important to choose a brush that is age appropriate in size and speed. Electric toothbrushes with a timer and include a melody and/or light up make for a more fun brushing experience. Of the higher end models, such as Sonicare and Rotadent, you are actually able to provide a much more cost-effective way to provide electric tooth brushing to your entire family. With these systems, your family can share the handle and just replace the head (or brush) with their own when it’s time to brush. These systems have different speeds, different types and sizes of brush heads ensuring that everyone in the family can brush correctly and safely. These higher end electric toothbrushes also come with warranties and can be repaired or replaced in the event of malfunction.

The best benefit to electric toothbrushes, as a parent, is the peace of mind that our children are creating and maintaining good dental habits.

Since an electric toothbrush does a better job of cleaning your child’s teeth, this eliminates the need for you to step in and finish the job. I don’t know about you but I’m all for improved dental health, preventing gum disease and whiter, healthier teeth with less work!

Is it Safe to Wiggle a Loose Baby Tooth?

My daughter Katie’s first baby tooth came out in a spoonful of Nutella. And she lost the second one backstage at a play when she bumped a chair against her mouth by accident. She had gauze in her mouth until seconds before she had to perform.

By the time the third tooth got loose, she was pretty brazen about it. She wiggled it. She let kids at school wiggle it. And I worried whether all that twisting and turning would make the tooth come out before it was ready, so I asked her to leave it alone and let nature take its course. The tooth fairy did visit, and she has visited a couple of more times since then.

But since Katie has 12 more of her 20 baby teeth to lose, I knew this issue would come up again. So I called Rhea Haugseth, dentist and president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, for some advice.

“My daughter is obsessed with wiggling a loose tooth. Is that helpful or harmful?” I asked.

“Most kids can’t resist,” said Haugseth, assuring me that Katie’s behavior is normal. “It’s fine to go after it. It’s actually even good.”

Haugseth explained that even wiggling a baby tooth wouldn’t make it come out before it’s ready. “By the time a child feels that a tooth is loose, the roots of the baby tooth have dissolved and only the gum tissue is holding it in its place,” she said. “In fact, if it’s left in there too long – because some children may be scared to wiggle it – the surrounding gums can get inflamed and irritated. That’s when parents call me.”

“So what do you recommend if a child is scared to wiggle her tooth?”

“I tell moms to accidentally bump into it when they’re helping their child brush their teeth,” she says. “And if that doesn’t work, a conversation about what the tooth fairy might bring works wonders.”

Does Your Child Grind Their Teeth at Night?

It is not uncommon for parents to be concerned about their child grinding their teeth at night. The involuntary action of grinding one’s teeth, often during sleep, is called bruxism. Usually, a parent’s first sign of bruxism is the noise that can be heard when the child is grinding their teeth during sleep. The parent may also notice the teeth getting shorter or wearing down to the dentition.

There are several reasons thought to contribute to this issue. One theory is the psychological component. Stress due to a new environment, divorce, changes at school; etc. may be the cause of your child’s grinding. A second reason is thought to be pressure in the inner ear. If there are pressure changes, the child will grind by moving his jaw to relieve this pressure. An example of this is an airplane flight during take off and landing when people sometimes relieve this pressure by chewing gum.

In most cases, bruxism in children does not require treatment. If you are concerned that your child exhibits signs of excessive wear of the teeth, then the need for a mouth guard may be indicated. There are drawbacks to mouth guards, however. There is the possibility of choking if the appliance becomes dislodged while sleeping or it may interfere with growth and development of the jaw.

The good news is most children outgrow bruxism. The grinding gets less between the ages 6-9 and children tend to stop grinding between ages 9-12. If you are concerned about your child’s grinding, consult your dentist. Your dentist can monitor the progress of the wear and evaluate the severity.

My Child Has a Toothache, Help!

It’s very difficult when your child is in any pain and toothaches can happen in your little ones. Let’s start by addressing what could be the cause of their toothache: their diet. If your children eat excessive candy or drink a lot of soft drinks, they may experience decay or cavities. The bacteria that live in your child’s mouth breaks sugar down into acid which then causes erosion of their teeth. Ask your child to point out where the pain is. Other causes could include mouth ulcers or swollen gums a cold sore which can affect inner mouth areas. Look inside your child’s mouth for swelling or red spots. If you see anything suspicious call your dentist and get an appointment immediately. Using home remedies could help temporarily but don’t let that deter you from making an appointment because without fixing the source, the ache will come back.

You can apply a warm damp cloth to the affected area from the outside. Try giving some Children’s Tylenol to your child and make sure they are not touching it or playing with the area. Don’t delay treatment as your child needs immediate and necessary dental care.

We suggest several things to help make your child’s first visit a pleasant one:

  • When your child has a dental appointment, make it part of a trip where they get to do something fun afterwards.
  • Don’t let your dentist wear a mask when introducing him/herself to your child.
  • Taking a favorite toy may help distract your child from fear or stress
  • Children pick up on their parents fears so if you are fearful of the dentist, don’t let your child know that.
  • Don’t use threats as a way to make your child go to the dentist because they will then see it as a punishment instead of a help.
  • Rewarding your child for being good at the dentist is always encouraging.

Most of all try not to let a toothache be the first reason your child sees a dentist. We always recommend starting young and introducing your child to good oral hygiene at a young age to develop healthy habits. As said before, the condition of your child’s baby teeth can affect that of the permanent teeth so start those good habits young!

My Child Has a Mouth Sore – What Can I Do?

boy with cold soreMouth sores come in many different forms and are quite common in people of all ages, including young children. These irritating lesions usually aren’t a cause for concern, but can be quite annoying and painful. They can make eating, drinking and brushing teeth uncomfortable. However, there are several steps you can take to relieve your child of pain associated with a mouth sore and even help prevent sores from occurring.

Types of Mouth Sores

The first step in knowing how to treat a mouth sore is to figure out what type of sore it is. Most types of mouth sores can be distinguished by how they look and where they appear. The most common mouth sores to look for include:

  • Cold sores – Also called a fever blister, this type of sore is usually found on the lips and around the mouth. It is a red, raised blister caused by the contagious herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). A child can contract the virus by kissing, sharing utensils or even a slobbery toy with an infected person. So as you can imagine, toddlers and preschool-aged children as especially susceptible to the virus.
  • Canker sores – Canker sores are ulcers that occur inside the mouth and have a white or yellowish, concave center with a red border. They can form inside the cheeks, lips, the base of the gums, and on or under the tongue. Unlike cold sores, cankers sores are not contagious, but are brought on by a variety of causes. Biting the lip or cheek, diet, poor immune system, and stress are all factors that can contribute to a canker sore.

If your child has one of these types of sores, there are several things you can do to help remedy any pain or discomfort associated with the sore. Over-the-counter topical medications such as Abreva, Zilactin, Anbesol, Orajel or Orajel Baby, and pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can usually do the trick. Check the label on medications for age recommendations, and consult with your doctor before using it for a younger child. Ensure that your children are brushing their teeth with care and using a soft bristle toothbrush. Additionally, monitor what type of food they eat, as chips and other abrasive foods or spicy foods can irritate the sore even more. Common mouth sores will eventually heal on their own within a few days to a week.

While it can be difficult to prevent your child from getting a mouth sore, discouraging them from sharing cups and utensils or putting toys in their mouth can help prevent cold sores. Likewise, discouraging lip biting and ensuring your child has a well-rounded diet can help prevent canker sores.

If you find that your child’s mouth sores reoccur frequently, aren’t going away after several days, or are occurring with a fever, consult a dentist or doctor. A prescription medication or mouth rinse may be given to help progress healing and prevent more sores from returning.

Don’t Pull Your Hair Out Over Brushing Your Kids’ Teeth

mother and daughter brushing teethWhining at tooth-brushing time can make you want to pull your own hair out. We know a better solution than threatening to take them to the dentist and pulling their teeth out instead.

How exactly can you get your kids into the bathroom and brushing their teeth correctly?

Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger when it comes to having problems getting kids to follow through with tooth brushing. Survey results show that just 58% of children brush their teeth 2X a day. Your goal is to get your kids into the bathroom and brushing their teeth correctly? Here are 5 tips to peace and quiet in your home as well as healthier mini-me’s.

1) A special trip to the store for toothbrush shopping

Everyone likes buying new things; it just makes you feel better. Children are no different.

  • Before the trip, do some talking around them that you are planning a big excursion for an important purchase for their health, something that will really help them in a special way. Let them know that they’re going to be allowed to choose their very own “special” toothbrush.
  • You are smart because you are using psychology to help you get to your goals: kids brush teeth and reduce dental disease. It’s a well-known fact that when a child chooses a toothbrush on their own, they are making a much deeper commitment. They actually own the decision when it’s their choice. And, they are much more likely to actually use it.
  • Go for the counter at the drug store with the colorful brushes, action figures and cartoon characters. It may seem elementary, but they are going to do much better if they own the toothbrush in their mind.

2) Establish a pattern of behavior

Timing is everything. Like any routine, once it’s learned, it becomes a habit and is not fought against. The trick is to make it fun, easy and forgettable (as to the stress part of it).

As a child develops, the one thing that is comforting to him or her is being in a routine.

Routines give them a sense of security, helps them to develop the discipline necessary to do boring things…such as following good oral hygiene practices!

3) Happy Time

Could it be that kids just mimic what they see their parents doing? The average person does not brush their teeth for the full two minutes that dentist’s recommend. Why would a kid know any different? We need to be better role models, certainly. I know it’s boring to brush for two minutes, but there are payoffs if we do.

Cooperation comes from making it a fun game, a happy time. Perhaps some of the following suggestions will do the trick.

  • What if you also brushed as the child brushed? Just that could make it a fun time.
  • Prop a favorite doll on the bathroom shelf above the child. At tooth brushing time, take the doll down and have your child practice brushing the doll’s teeth. Next, tell them how happy their doll is with them and the job they did. Finally, suggest they give it a try on their own teeth.
  • YouTube has in its archives many “toothbrush songs”. To make brushing fun for your kids fine one for each day of the week and play a different song each time. You’ll notice that most are two minutes long, just the right amount of time to brush thoroughly.
  • If you can create a game of it all, you will win big time. When they go the full two minuted duration, they win. When they make all the right moves, brushing inside and outside, they win. Be sure they get a prize when they compete the game!

4) The family that brushes together stays together.

As I mentioned, do this as a group. Child, mom and dad doing the tooth brush shuffle!

  • When the time comes to whisk away the sugar bugs, make it a big deal. Excitement sells lots of things, even tooth brushing. The fun you generate on your way to the bathroom will pay off in spades when you visit the dentist in a few months.
  • Kids want in on the fun. Curiosity can get them to follow you both to the bathroom. There the brushing can begin. Talk about the doll or the super hero figure needing to be saved from sugar bug attack. Make it fun time for the child.

5) Electric toothbrushes work for kids

As adults, most of us probably use an electric toothbrush because they are absolutely the best for us. The truth is, kids absolutely love them, too.

Several electric toothbrushes are available specifically made for children with colorful designs, audio jingles and sound effects to encourage children to brush longer.

  • You may want to start slowly; gradually increasing the brushing time from one minute to two minutes.
  • I like to divide the effort into eight parts, inside left, outside left, inside right, outside right all on the top and then do that same four sections on the bottom teeth.
  • Don’t forget to brush every tooth on every side, not just the tops of the teeth or just the front six teeth.

Some of the most fantastic success stories we have heard came from our small patients getting an electric tooth brush and using it to whirl away the sugar bugs. Try it, you’ll see!

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