What should I do if my child has a toothache?

Toothaches in children can be tricky ordeals that cause distress for both the child and the parent. You may feel helpless and frustrated because you cannot pinpoint the location of the pain. It is so hard to see your little one experience discomfort and feel like there is nothing you can do about it. But there are ways you can help. Try these tips the next time your child has a toothache.

Zero in on the Painful Area

The first thing you need to do is find out where the pain is coming from. If your child is old enough, ask him or her to point to the painful area. In younger children, look for swelling and redness on the gums and cheek, dental caries (discolorations on the tooth), or broken teeth. Try to get as close to the location of the pain as possible so you can determine an effective course of action to relieve it.

Try to Find the Cause

Not all toothaches are actually toothaches. A child can bite his or her tongue or cheek, have sore gums, or develop ulcers in the mouth. Teeth that are coming in can also be quite painful. If a tooth is discolored, broken, loose, or has spots that are either darker or lighter than the rest of the tooth, those could be causes of pain.

Five-Step Approach to Dental Pain Relief

  1. Floss. Help your child floss to remove any food particles that may be wedged between the teeth and could be causing pain.

  2. Rinse with warm salt water. Use a warm salt-water solution and have your child rinse well by swishing or holding the salt water over the painful area.

  3. Use a cold compress. This can relieve pain and swelling. If there is no swelling, you can try it anyway to subdue the pain. Try it on for about 15 minutes, then off for 20.

  4. Give the child ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Use the appropriate dosage for your child’s age and administer it regularly as directed.

  5. If you determine that the tooth or gum is damaged, or if the pain simply cannot be relieved, call our office.

If your child is experiencing throbbing pain, fatigue, or fever, you should call your pediatrician as soon as possible. If your child is experiencing mouth pain accompanied by trouble breathing or swallowing, it can indicate a more serious situation and you should take your son or daughter to the emergency room.

Most mouth pain in children can be remedied with the simple steps here. The important thing is that you remain calm, no matter what. You child is taking cues from you and if you panic, he or she will panic.

First Trip to the Dentist: How to Make Sure it is Smooth Sailing

Trips to the dentist are an essential part of oral care, but for a child, the first time can be scary. Sitting in a chair, under a light, while a stranger pokes inside their mouth is understandably daunting.

We are often afraid of things we don’t understand, so the best way to make your child’s first trip to the dentist smooth sailing is to help them understand what to expect before they get to the office. Knowledge will make the visit more comfortable and relaxing.

Normalize visits to the dentist with books, or simply talking about it! There are many children’s books out there from Dr. Suess, The Berenstain Bears, and Sesame Street. A quick search online will bring up a plethora of books about brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist.

We also recommend roleplaying with a pretend visit!  Making the dentist fun at home will make the outing more fun when the time comes. Be sure to use positive vocabulary, avoiding words like shot and hurt. Instead, talk about a clean, strong, smile. In keeping with the positive theme, be sure not to bribe your kids with a post-appointment treat. Bribery gives the idea that there is something to be nervous about. Instead, opt for surprising them with some sort of reward after the fact.

Here at our practice, because we specialize in pediatric dentistry, we too have tactics to make the appointment go easy and smooth for both you and your child! Thank you for trusting us to do so.

So when should you schedule this trip? As a rule of thumb, kids should start going to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after their first tooth erupts. We’ll see you then!

 

Understanding Cavities

Getting a cavity seems like delayed punishment for eating that special dessert every weekend or for the few days you forgot to floss. When you are doing everything right with minimal exception and a cavity is diagnosed, it is discouraging. Knowing how cavities form and what causes them is valuable in knowing how to prevent them. In this blog post, we will help you understand cavities!

A cavity is not a one-time event. It is actually a symptom of a disease called caries. Tooth decay is a result of an active infection and condition in the mouth. There are ingredients to this infection, which include bacteria, acid, your tooth, and a food source. The main bacterial culprit is S. Mutans. Bacteria live in a housing structure called biofilm. This offers them protection, food, and an ideal replicating environment.

Biofilm can be healthy if there is a balance of good bacteria. When you have caries, the numbers of “bad” bacteria increase and produce an environment where they thrive and therefore cause tooth decay. A main indicator of this is a pH measurement of your saliva.

Several factors can influence the biofilm pH. Foods and beverages all have different pH levels. The lower the number, the higher the acidity. Since acid promotes tooth decay, a beverage like soda will promote a cavity. Water, being neutral, is a good choice to promote healthy oral pH. Healthy eating can still cause cavities. Here is an example of a highly acidic, yet traditionally healthy meal:

Toast with store-bought strawberry jam, and a cup of cottage cheese topped with fresh cranberries.

Instead, here is a better choice, which involves mixing acidic healthy foods with alkaline (non-acidic) foods to reduce the overall pH:

Toast with almond butter, and Greek yogurt topped with fresh blueberries.

The first example will result in a very low pH in the mouth and even in the rest of the body. The second meal mixes highly acidic blueberries with an alkaline Greek yogurt. Dairy products from cows are highly acidic. Toast is acidic because of the yeast and almonds are alkaline.

A natural buffer is saliva. Whenever mouth breathing or medications compromise the saliva flow, the pH is going to drop and caries can go rampant. Getting a cavity is not just about the sweets or forgotten flossing sessions. It is about the pH levels and bacterial management.

For more helpful tips about how to avoid cavities, contact our office!

Why should I have my child’s wisdom teeth removed?

The wisdom teeth are the last of the permanent molars to emerge from the gums. This can occur as early as age 17 or as late as 21. Though some teens and young adults experience a completely normal tooth eruption with ideally aligned molars that pose no health threat, this is not the case for everyone.

According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), wisdom teeth must meet specific criteria to avoid a required extraction. These guidelines include:

  • Completely erupted and non-impacted
  • Completely functional
  • Painless
  • Free of decay
  • Disease-free
  • Capable of being properly cleaned

If one or more of your child’s wisdom teeth do not meet these conditions, we recommend scheduling an appointment with us; an extraction may be necessary.

Impacted wisdom teeth

One of the most common reasons for extracting a wisdom tooth is due to impaction. An impacted wisdom tooth is one that has not erupted and will not fully erupt from the gums. Usually this occurs because there is not enough room for the tooth to emerge. Impaction can be painful and can also lead to infection if left untreated. According to the AAOMS, roughly 90 percent of the teen and adult population has at least one impacted tooth. Extracting an impacted wisdom tooth early can help prevent future complications, such as periodontal disease, infections, and damage to neighboring teeth.

Extracting fully erupted wisdom teeth

Even if your child’s wisdom teeth are fully erupted, our team may recommend removing them as a preventive measure. Fully-erupted third molars often interfere with a healthy bite. This can lead to problems with tooth and jaw alignment and may also contribute to the development of headaches. Your child’s wisdom teeth may also be more prone to tooth decay and gum disease, because their location in the back of the mouth makes them more difficult to reach for brushing and flossing.

To learn more about wisdom teeth, or to schedule an appointment with us, please give us a call!

Kids and Teeth Grinding

Grind, grind, grind… if your little one happens to be a teeth grinder, you may be familiar with this unpleasant sound. Teeth grinding, or what our team also calls bruxism, is common in children. In fact, three out of ten kids grind or clench their teeth, usually in response to stress, jaw growth, malocclusion, losing teeth, or other discomforts, such as allergies. Kids typically outgrow teeth grinding by the time they reach their teenage years.

Many kids who grind their teeth in their sleep have no idea they’re doing it. In fact, when they wake up in the morning they feel no jaw, facial, neck, or shoulder pain. In most cases, if it hadn’t been for a parent or sibling telling them about it, the teeth grinding would have gone unnoticed.

There are children, however, who wake up with jaw pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, and headaches. Teeth grinding can cause a host of dental complications, from cracked teeth and receding gums to a misaligned jaw. Our team will tell you that teeth grinding is not something to take lightly. Teeth grinding can have serious consequences that, if left untreated, can lead to tooth fractures and damage to the temporomandibular joint, also known as TMJ.

The first step in helping your child recover from teeth grinding is noticing and diagnosing the problem. Symptoms of teeth grinding typically include:

  • Grinding noises when your child is sleeping
  • Complaints of tightness or pain in the jaw
  • Complaints of headaches, earaches, or facial pain
  • Complaints of pain when chewing
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Chipped, worn down, or loose teeth

If you suspect your child is a teeth grinder, our team will be able to help. Please give us a call at our office! We look forward to treating your child!

Can baby teeth get cavities?

Our team knows that every parent loves to hear his or her child say, “no cavities!” when leaving our office. Let’s talk about why primary (baby) teeth get cavities, what you can do to help prevent them, and what we can do if your child gets a cavity. It’s a team effort!

Prevention is Key

A well-balanced diet high in protein, vitamins, and minerals (especially calcium and phosphorous) is an important part of cavity prevention. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) states that children should eat healthy snacks like cheese, vegetables, and yogurt, and drink milk. Limit hard candy and carbonated beverages, which have acid and can cause tooth decay. Also, do not put children to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice because sugary fluids pool around the teeth and gums, which promotes decay.

In addition to limiting sweets and scheduling regular visits at our office, make sure your child flosses once a day and brushes his or her teeth twice a day with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. A good rule of thumb is if children can tie their shoelace, then they should be able to brush their teeth without help. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends the following basic brushing techniques:

  • Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
  • Move the brush back and forth gently in short strokes
  • Brush the outer surfaces, inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of all teeth.
  • To clean the inside surface of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.
  • Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and keep your breath fresh.

These tips will greatly increase cavity prevention; however, if your child gets a cavity, it will not heal on its own and must be fixed. Our team will remove the decayed part of the tooth and fill the hole where the decay was. You may wonder why it’s important to fill baby teeth if they’re going to fall out eventually. Baby teeth hold space for permanent teeth to grow in. If one is lost, teeth may shift and prevent a permanent tooth from growing in. In addition, a decayed tooth can become abscessed and cause pain. No fun!

Let’s work together to help your child develop good oral health habits that last a lifetime. Please contact our office if you have any questions about your child’s diet or cavity prevention.

Are My Child’s Baby Teeth on Schedule?

Your darling three-month old is crying and fussy—can she be teething already? Or, your happy baby boy has just celebrated his first birthday—with only one tooth in that beautiful, gummy smile. Is this normal? Probably! While baby teeth do typically erupt (come in) in the same order for all babies, and around the same time, there is still a lot of flexibility in the time it takes for a full, healthy smile to develop.

Baby teeth actually form before your baby is born, and those 20 teeth are there under the gums waiting to come out and shine. And even though there are no firm and fast dates for each of these primary teeth to erupt, it’s helpful to have a general overview of typical teething patterns so you know what to look forward to.

Incisors

These little teeth create a charming baby smile, and, if your finger has been in the wrong place at the wrong time, a very sharp one as well! That is because these tiny incisors are made to bite into foods. You might notice this when you introduce solid foods, even if the majority of your child’s “chewing” is done with her back gums. These teeth are the earliest to arrive.

  • Six to ten months old: The lower central incisors (bottom front teeth) are often the first to come in.

  • Eight to 12 months old: The upper incisors (8-12 months) are the next to show.

  • Nine to 13 months old: The upper lateral incisors on each side of the front teeth arrive.

  • Ten to 16 months old: The lower lateral incisors appear.

First Molars

Because these are larger teeth, babies often experience another bout of teething pain at this time. The large flat surface of each molar helps your child to chew and grind food, so he can handle a wider variety of foods and develop his chewing skills.

  • 13 to 19 months old: You can generally expect to see the upper first molars arrive.

  • 14 to 18 months old: The lower first molars appear.

Canines (Cuspids)

Fitting between the first molars and the incisors, the strong, pointed shape of the canine teeth allows your child to grip food and break it apart more easily.

  • 16 to 22 months old: The upper two canines make their way into the space between the incisors and the first molars.

  • 17 to 23 months old: The two lower canines appear.

Second Molars

By the age of three, most children have a full set of baby teeth.

  • 23 to 31 months old: The second pair of bottom molars start erupting—you are in the home stretch!

  • 25 to 33 months old: The upper second molars come in—completing that beautiful set of 20 teeth!

Baby teeth are extremely important, as our will tell you when you visit our office. They help your child eat and chew, develop face and jaw muscles, assist proper speech formation, and provide space for the adult teeth to come in properly. Now that your child’s smile is complete, keep providing him with the same care and attention you have been giving those little teeth since the arrival of the very first incisor.

It seems that so much of new parenthood is scheduling—when to feed her, when to put her to bed, how many hours between naps. But we soon find out that every baby is not on the same schedule, and the same is true for the arrival of their teeth. We should see your baby when that first tooth comes in, or by his or her first birthday. And if you ever have concerns at any time about your child’s teething schedule or teething delays, always feel free to give us a call.

Pediatric Dentistry Q&A

Today, our team thought we would answer some of the most frequent questions about pediatric dentistry and oral health we hear from parents.

What constitutes a “healthy, balanced diet” for my child?

A healthy, balanced diet contains all the nutrients your child needs to grow, including one serving each of fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products, and meat, fish and eggs per day. Make sure your child limits snacking in between meals and limits how frequently they consume food or beverages that contain sugar, which is known to cause tooth decay. Besides pastries, cookies, and candy, sugars are usually found in processed foods such as crackers, cereals, and soda, as well as in condiments like ketchup.

Should my kid give up all foods that contain sugar?

Absolutely not, we simply recommend choosing and serving sugars sparingly. A food with sugar is safer for teeth if it is eaten with a meal, not as a snack. When your child chews during his or her meal, the saliva produced helps neutralize the acids that are found in sugary and starchy foods. Foods that are not easily washed away from your child’s teeth by saliva, water, or milk have more cavity-causing potential.

What causes cavities?

Many types of bacteria live in our mouths—some good, some bad. When these bacteria come into contact with sugary foods left behind on your child’s teeth after eating, acids are produced. These acids then attack the enamel, and eventually eat through the enamel and create holes in the teeth, which our team call cavities, or caries.

How can I help my child avoid cavities?

This is a great question that we hear a lot. Make sure that your child brushes his teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily is also important, as flossing can reach spots between the teeth that brushing simply can’t. And finally, we encourage you to schedule regular appointments with us so that we can check the state of your child’s teeth and gums, as well as provide a professional cleaning to protect him or her from cavities and gum disease.

What is the best way to clean my baby’s teeth?

We recommend you clean your baby’s gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth. This is even before your baby’s first tooth appears. As soon as his or her first tooth does appear, you may begin using a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. You can most likely find a toothbrush designed for infants at your local drugstore or ask us for one during your next visit.

What should I do if my child has a toothache?

First, we recommend rinsing the irritated area with warm salt water and placing a cold compress on his or her face if it is swollen. If you have any at home, give your child acetaminophen for any pain, rather than placing aspirin on the affected teeth or gums. Finally, give us a call as soon as possible to schedule an appointment.

We hope that helps! Please give us a call if you have any questions or ask us next time you visit our office for your child’s appointment! If you have any other questions, or would like to schedule an appointment, we would love to hear from you.

A Parent’s Guide to Choosing the Best Toothpaste

Tooth decay is the most common childhood disease, with more than 16 million children suffering from it each year. Oral disease also leads to just over 51 million school hours lost every school year. You can help prevent your child from getting cavities by getting them toothpaste that works for their smile. Here’s what to look for when buying toothpaste for your children.

Look for…

The ADA Seal of Approval

Look for the American Dental Association’s seal of approval when buying any dental or oral care products. The seal will be easily viewable on the box. The ADA’s stringent testing procedures help ensure that you’re buying a useful product that actually works.

Fluoride

For more than half a century, the ADA has recommended using toothpaste containing fluoride to prevent cavities. Fluoridated toothpaste does an excellent job of cleaning teeth, but make sure that your child spits all of it out and rinses their mouth thoroughly after brushing since ingesting excessive fluoride can lead to a condition called fluorosis.

Avoid Abrasives

Mild abrasives remove debris and residual surface stains from teeth, but they can also remove enamel. Avoid whitening toothpastes for your children that contain abrasives like: calcium carbonate, dehydrated silica gels, hydrated aluminum oxides, magnesium carbonate, and silicates.

Enjoyable Flavors

Your goal is to get your child to brush twice per day for two minutes each time. A lot of children find that mint or other traditionally flavored toothpastes are too “spicy” for them. You can find flavors that aren’t too harsh on their sensitive palates. Children’s toothpaste often comes in fun flavors like berry and bubblegum, and sometimes features some of their favorite cartoon characters or superheroes on the container.

Begin a Good Cleaning Routine Early

Just because your toddler doesn’t have teeth doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean their mouth! You can clean toddler’s gums with a clean, damp cloth by gently running away residual food. By doing this, you are actually improving the health of the baby teeth that will soon erupt, and familiarizing them with oral care early in their life.

Does Your Child Brush Twice per Day?

To prevent cavities and tooth decay, your child should be brushing twice per day for two minutes at a time, and floss once per day. If they are complaining of sensitive or painful teeth, then visit our office for further evaluation. Our team will check their mouth for signs of tooth and provide them with a treatment plan that will get them a healthy smile that lasts a lifetime.

Can a Child Lose a Baby Tooth too Soon?

Baby teeth aren’t permanent, but did you know that it’s possible to loose a baby tooth too soon? Here’s everything parents need to know about losing a baby tooth too soon.

It’s too Soon When…

If your child loses a tooth before the age of 4, then you need to schedule an appointment with your pediatric dentist. Usually, natural tooth loss begins around age 6, and concludes around age 12.

Risks of Losing Teeth too Soon

If a baby tooth is lost too early, it can cause serious crowding problems for the developing adult teeth, as well as negatively impact the jaw’s muscle and bone development. This can lead to necessary orthodontic treatment later in life to correct a bite and alignment issues.

Common Causes of Tooth Loss

The most common causes of premature tooth loss are traumatic facial injuries and tooth decay. It’s impossible to prevent accidents from happening, but you can prevent tooth decay by ensuring your child follows a healthy brushing and flossing regiment, and enjoys mouth healthy foods and plenty of water.

When is it Okay to Lose a Baby Tooth?

 

Baby teeth usually begin to fall out around age 6, and the process usually lasts 6 years until ages 11-12. Baby teeth will naturally become looser, and fall out on their own to make room for adult teeth erupting beneath them. Usually, teeth fall out in the order that they first arrived, but that’s not always the case.

Can You fix a Tooth lost Too Early?

Fortunately, there are plenty of options for those that lose teeth too soon! Spacers and space maintainers are placed in the gap of the lost tooth to help prepare for the arrival of the incoming adult tooth. Spacers come in many shapes, sizes and colors, and can make an un-fun situation more enjoyable for your child.

Schedule an Appointment with Our Office

If you think that your child has lost a tooth too soon, then call our office to schedule an evaluation. We’ll provide your child with the necessary treatment that best prepares their mouth for a healthy, adult smile.