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My Kid Has a GREAT Smile! How Could He Have Tooth Decay?

boy in costumeWe as parents care about our children’s smiles; knowing this, it’s hard to understand all the media attention around the rise in “dental surgeries”. Who are these kids and what’s going on?

The answer will surprise you. We are not looking at neglected children. This is a widespread problem affecting children across demographics. These children range in age from 3 to 6 with multiple baby teeth (as many as 6-10) that contain cavities, and as a result they now require general anesthesia to complete the treatment.

But how is that possible – dental decay is preventable! The problem is that these cavities are forming when our kids are young – they can be caused from sugary, sweet drinks and snacks before bedtime or something as simple as giving your child bottled water instead of tap water because it does not contain fluoride. Dental decay may be easy to prevent, but the signs are also easy to overlook

So what can you do about it:

  • Be aware, by checking your children’s teeth looking for white lines in the teeth and dark areas. These are signs of enamel breakdown that turns into decay.
  • You should also continue to help your child brush their teeth until the age of at least 7.
  • Do not give your young child a bottle of juice or milk at bedtime. The sugars in these drinks will sit on your child’s teeth, bathing them in sugars, ultimately causing decay.
  • Lastly get your child comfortable with the dental office. Take them every 6 months for a dental check up in a child friendly dental office.

Kids and Flouride: How Important is it…Really?

Fluoride is a mineral that is naturally occurring in water and certain foods. On a daily basis we lose and gain minerals from the enamel layer on our teeth. These processes are known as demineralization or remineralization. Acids are formed in our mouths from sugar and bacteria which then attach to our tooth surface. There are minerals like fluoride or calcium that help to redeposit or remineralize the enamel layer on our teeth. When you have too much demineralization and not enough remineralization, you develop tooth decay.

The main benefit of fluoride is to prevent tooth decay. It helps do this by protecting our teeth from the acid that develops in our mouths. It also helps reduce the risk of losing teeth and dental disease.

Fluoride has been shown to reduce cavities in children by at least 60% just by the use of fluoridated drinking water.

For children under the age of six, fluoride assists in the development of their adult teeth. At the dentist, we apply fluoride in several different forms including: foam, varnish or gels which have a much higher amount of fluoride then what is found in water or food. There are other forms of fluoride available such as supplements, tablets or liquids but also consult your pediatrician or dentist before using these treatments.

Children between the ages of 6 months all the way up to 16 years need to be exposed to fluoride. That’s not to say that adults don’t benefit from it too, but 6 months to 16 years are the most crucial ages to be exposed.

Fluoride is an easy way to fight decay in your child’s mouth. Make sure you know whether or not you live in an area where the water is fluorinated. This will help your doctor or dentist determine if your child is getting enough fluoride.

Thumb Sucking or Pacifiers – What Can a Parent to Do?

The most popular argument, in the debate between thumb sucking and pacifiers, is that the pacifier can be taken away if the child seems to be developing a prolonged habit. While this point is valid, some children may develop a prolonged habit of thumb sucking after the pacifier is taken away anyway. Another argument is that the use of orthodontic pacifiers may lessen the chance of dental problems. However, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) states that all pacifiers and thumb sucking affect teeth the same way. Some of these issues may include malocclusion and affected speech. Malocclusion is a misalignment of teeth or incorrect relation between the teeth of the two dental arches. Prolonged thumb sucking and pacifiers can cause the front teeth to be pushed out and forward. This position is called an overbite as the child’s jaw is altered from a U to a V shape. Orthodontic treatment is the only way this can be corrected.

Since the American Academy of Pediatrics SIDS recommendations have found pacifiers have helped “reduce the risk of SIDS”, only offering a pacifier at naptime or at bedtime is one good way to lessen the chances of it becoming a habit. Keep in mind that thumb/finger sucking is completely normal and that most children give it up by age two. Every child is different and you can’t guarantee whether your child will prefer one over the other. The only “problem” is when the act becomes prolonged.

Some helpful tips to help stop the habit:

  1. Distract your child. If thumb sucking is the issue, find an activity that requires the use of both hands. Holding a book at nap time is one option.
  2. Develop a game. Use a secret signal that only you and your child know to signal when they have put a thumb or pacifier in their mouth. The act is sometimes done unconsciously and a helpful, fun reminder might do the trick.
  3. Use your Pediatrician or Dentist to reinforce the need to stop. Children often see these people as authoritative figures and may be more apt to listen.
  4. Make them feel like it’s their idea. “Giving” old pacifiers to the needy or younger babies make them feel proud and helpful.

What about you? What tips have worked for your little one?

Childhood Teeth Grinding: How to Know

When you watch your child sleep you see sweet dreams and peaceful slumber right? This sweet slumber is often disrupted by the sound of grinding or gnashing of teeth.

Most kids aren't even awareBelieve it or not, 3 out of every 10 children grind their teeth at night, also known as Bruxism. This is common in children especially under the age of 5 but fortunately most children will outgrow this bad habit.

Although it is not known why kids develop Bruxism, there are several reasons thought to induce this behavior. Some kids grind because their upper and lower teeth are not yet aligned properly. Pain from erupting teeth or an earache can also be a common cause. Stress is also a known origin of teeth grinding or gnashing.

Bruxism can go undetected with little to no side effects in some children while other cases often turn into what is referred to as TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint Disease. TMJ is only developed when grinding becomes or persistent in a child.

Typically a child will not be aware that he or she is grinding their teeth so it is usually a family member who picks up on it.

Here are some symptoms you should look for:

  1. Complaints of jaw joint or face pain from your child in the morning
  2. Pain when your child chews
  3. Grinding like noises when your child is sleeping

If you think that your child is grinding his or her teeth at night, take him or her to your family dentist. Any dentist can identify chipped teeth or wear on their enamel as well as any unusual sensitivity. By asking some key questions your dentist can identify whether the problem is psychological or anatomical which will help them develop a treatment plan that will be effective for your child.

While most children will grow out of Bruxism, it’s important that you keep a close eye on your child and maintain regular visits to the dentist in order to keep the problem in check. There are different approaches that may help your child such as a custom made mouth guard or basic stress relieving techniques before bed. Your dentist can help you identify what will work best for your child.

All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth

Did you know the decay from a baby tooth can affect your child’s adult teeth too? Taking care of your child’s teeth at a young age is what will help their permanent teeth develop correctly and come in healthy.

Tooth decay in infants is most commonly seen in the upper front teeth. This type of decay is known as “baby bottle” tooth decay. It’s caused from lengthy exposure of their teeth to liquids that contain sugar. As their parent, it’s up to you to make sure they get the oral hygiene they need until they are old enough to do it on their own.

  • Clean your infant’s gums with a clean, damp cloth
  • When their first teeth come in, brush with a small and soft bristled toothbrush using only water
  • Monitor disproportionate sucking of pacifiers, fingers and thumbs to avoid misalignment of teeth
  • Don’t permit your child to fall asleep with a bottle of formula, juice or milk
  • Avoid filling your child’s bottle with excessively sugary liquids
  • Let them drink tap or fountain water, if you choose to buy bottled water, make sure it contains fluoride. This will help their teeth resist decay
  • Encourage your children to brush their own teeth when they are old enough so they gain self confidence.
  • We always encourage our patients to lead by example, letting your child watch you brush teaches them the importance of good oral hygiene.

The ideal time to bring your child into the dentist is six months after their first primary teeth erupt or by their first birthday. This is the best time for the dentist to carefully examine the development of your child’s mouth. This way your dentist can help provide recommended preventive care that will help avert oral health problems.

Prevent Childhood Tooth Decay with Dental Sealants

Cavities are a common problem for children that can begin at an early age. Approximately one fifth of kids ages 2-4 and over fifty percent of eight year old children are affected.

Dental sealants can help! Sealants are a thin plastic covering Dental-Sealants-Resultsplaced on the grooves of the posterior chewing teeth or molars. Sealants prevent decay on the chewing surfaces by covering the skinny, narrow, cracks and crevices referred to in dentistry as “pits and fissures”. This lessens the hiding places for the bacteria that cause cavities or “caries” and makes the back teeth more cleansable. We recommend sealants on any premolars or molars that have not had any fillings. In some cases we have seen a sealant stop a cavity that has already started forming!

You may hear some press relating sealants with a link to BPA. BPA, or bisphenol A, is a chemical in some plastics. Human and animal studies have linked BPA to an estrogen like chemical that can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease in adults. Minute BPA levels rise in the saliva in the first three hours after sealant placement and then quickly drop off. The benefits of sealants outweigh the potential risk of BPA exposure. Dental materials cause far less BPA exposure then normal, daily, used consumer products such as plastic bottles and the linings of metal cans.

The first eruption of permanent molars typically occurs around age 6. Sealants can be placed on these teeth shortly after they erupt through the gum.

If sealants are regularly applied to the surface of your child’s teeth and they have the recommended use of fluoride, most decay can be prevented in their childhood years.

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