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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!

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!

Caring for Baby Teeth Means Healthier “Grown-Up” Teeth

Baby teeth are referred to as many things such as; deciduous, milk teeth, temporary or primary teeth. These teeth are the first set of teeth that a child develops. They develop in the womb and become noticeable in the mouth during the infant years. Permanent teeth are those which replace the baby teeth when they fall out.

healthy baby teethDeciduous dentition consists of central incisors, lateral incisors, canines, first and secondary molars. The lower, two front teeth are the first teeth to go, followed by the upper two front teeth, moving on to the teeth on either side of the front teeth. The primary teeth may continue to fall out until the age of 12-13. The ages are general guide lines. Different children, even in the same families, vary in age ranges

Many times we are asked how to tell the difference between a baby tooth and an adult tooth. Primary teeth start to exfoliate between the ages of 4-6 years. Primary teeth tend to be whiter and smaller then the permanent teeth. The permanent teeth are 1.5 times the size of the baby teeth.

Care of baby teeth is just as significant as caring for permanent teeth. While the truth of the matter is that baby teeth only spend a short period of time in a child’s mouth, they play a fundamental role for the permanent teeth that come later:

  • They not only save space for their permanent tooth replacement but they also give the face a normal look.
  • They assist in clear pronunciation of words, help manage good nutrition for the body and help protect the permanent teeth.
  • When a primary tooth is decaying or infected, it can also damage the permanent teeth underneath the gum line.

Care for baby teeth starts before they breakthrough the gums. Start getting in the habit of wiping your baby’s guns with a soft, wet washcloth or gauze during bath time. Toothpaste is not necessary at this stage. You can wrap the cloth around your finger and gently wipe over the gums. This also helps your baby get used to having his or her teeth cleaned as part of their regular routine.

After your child’s teeth start to show around 6 months of age or so, purchase a baby toothbrush with small bristles. Don’t get worried if your child hasn’t cut any teeth by the end of their first year, for some kids this doesn’t happen until 18 months of age. If you are cleaning your baby’s teeth regularly at this stage, toothpaste is still not necessary just yet. Brush gently on both sides of the teeth twice a day. You can brush your baby’s tongue gently to remove bacteria.

It’s always important to replace any toothbrush when it looks worn or the bristles start to spread out. Remember to start forming good brushing habits with your kids at a young age. Call your dentist with questions or concerns you may have with your child’s teeth. There is never a silly question for your dentist; we understand the importance of your child’s health.

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