Frequently Asked Questions
What about Preventative Care?
Tooth decay and children no longer have to go hand-in-hand. At our office, we are most concerned with all aspects of preventive care. We use the latest in sealant technology to protect your child’s teeth. Sealants are space-age plastics that are bonded to the chewing surfaces of decay-prone back teeth. This is just one of the ways we will set the foundation for your child’s lifetime of good oral health.
What about Sterilization?
Your health and peace of mind are always our primary concern; therefore, we use state-of-the-art sterilization procedures. After each patient’s visit, the treatment area is thoroughly disinfected. We ultrasonically clean and heat-sterilize all non-disposable instruments. Our staff wears gloves and masks during procedures. Please feel free to ask us for information on the measures we take to ensure the safety of you and your children or a tour of our sterilization area.
When to Begin Brushing?
Once your child’s teeth begin erupting, you can begin cleaning them by wiping them with a moist washcloth. As your child gets more teeth, you can begin to use a soft child’s toothbrush. You should use just a pea-sized amount of toothpaste (such as Baby OraGel) until your child is able to spit it out (too much fluoride can stain their teeth).
For most toddlers, getting them to brush their teeth can be quite a challenge.
Some suggestions for making tooth brushing less of a battle can include:
- Let your child brush your teeth at the same time.
- Let your child pick out a few toothbrushes with his favorite characters and giving him a choice of which one he wants to use each time (this will give him some feeling of control over the situation).
- Let your child brush his own teeth first (you will likely have to “help out”).
- Let your child look at some children’s books about tooth brushing.
- Have everyone in the family brush their teeth at the same time.
To help your child understand the importance of brushing, it can be sometimes fun and helpful to let them eat or drink something that will “stain“ their teeth temporarily and then brush them clean.
It can also be a good idea to create a “tooth brushing routine”. And stick to the same routine each day.
Digit sucking is a habit that occurs in infants. Children usually give up digit sucking by the age of four. If the child continues past the age when their permanent teeth start to erupt, they may develop crooked teeth and a malformed roof of their mouth. This results from the frequency, duration, intensity, and position of the digit in the child’s mouth. This can also affect the position of the upper and lower jaw and can also affect speech.
Suggestions to break the habit:
- Wait till the time is right (low stress).
- Motivate your child (show examples of what could happen to their teeth and fingers/thumbs).
- Use a reward system (small incentives will encourage your child to stick with it).
While many people believe periodontal disease is an adult problem, studies indicate that gingivitis (the first stage of periodontal disease) is nearly a universal problem among children and adolescents. Advanced forms of periodontal disease is more rare in children than adults, but can occur.
Chronic gingivitis is common in children. It can cause gum tissue to swell, turn red, and bleed easily. Gingivitis is preventable and treatable with a regular routine of brushing, flossing, and professional dental care. If left untreated, it can eventually advance to more serious forms of periodontal disease.
Localized aggressive periodontitis can affect young healthy children. It is found in teenagers and young adults and mainly affects the first molars and incisors. It is characterized by the severe loss of alveolar bone, and ironically, patients generally form very little dental plaque or calculus.
Generalized aggressive periodontitis may begin around puberty and involve the entire mouth. It is marked by inflammation of the gums and heavy accumulations of plaque and calculus. Eventually it can cause the teeth to become loose.
Conditions that make children more susceptible to periodontal disease include:
- Type I diabetes
- Down syndrome
- Papillon-Lefevre syndrome
For example, in a survey of 263 Type I diabetics, 11 to 18 years of age, 10 percent had overt periodontitis.
Adolescence & Oral Care
There is evidence that demonstrates how periodontal disease may increase during adolescence due to lack of motivation to practice oral hygiene. Children who maintain good oral health habits up until the teen years are more likely to continue brushing and flossing than children who were not taught proper oral care.
Advice for Parents
Early diagnosis is important for successful treatment of periodontal diseases. Therefore, it is important that children receive a periodontal examination as part of their routine dental visits. Be aware that if your child has an advanced form of periodontal disease, this may be an early sign of systemic disease. A general medical evaluation should be considered for children who exhibit severe periodontitis, especially if it appears resistant to therapy.
An important step in the fight against periodontal disease is to establish good oral health habits with your child early. When your child is about a year old, you can begin using toothpaste when brushing their teeth. However, only use a pea-sized portion on the brush and press it into the bristles so your child won’t eat it. And, when the gaps between your child’s teeth close, it’s important to start flossing.
Serve as a good role model by practicing good oral health care habits yourself and schedule regular dental visits for family check-ups, periodontal evaluations, and cleanings.
Check your child’s mouth for the signs of periodontal disease, including bleeding gums, swollen and bright red gums, gums that are receding away from the teeth, and bad breath.
If your child currently has poor oral health habits, work with your child to change these now. It’s much easier to modify these habits in a child than in an adult. Since your child models behavior after you, it follows that you should serve as a positive role model in your oral hygiene habits. A healthy smile, good breath, and strong teeth all contribute to a young person’s sense of personal appearance, as well as confidence and self-esteem.
What Is Fluoride?
Fluoride helps make teeth strong and prevents tooth decay. If the water where you live does not have enough fluoride, your doctor may prescribe fluoride supplements (fluoride drops or pills). You would give these drops or pills every day, starting when your child is about six months old. Only give as much as the directions say to use because too much fluoride can cause spots on your child’s teeth. Also, be sure to call your local water authority and ask if your water is fluoridated. If it is, tell your dentist or pediatrician so that your child is not being over fluoridated. Children should take these drops or pills until they are 12 to 16 years old (or until you move to an area with fluoride in the water).
How do I know if my child is getting the appropriate amount of fluoride in their diet?
If you do not reside in a community that has fluoridated water or have the appropriate amount of natural fluoride in your well water, your child will need some sort of supplement in their diet. We can help you determine how much of a supplement your child needs based upon their weight, age, current water fluoride level, and brand of toothpaste.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Diet & Cavity Prevention
What is an appropriate diet for my child?
It is important that your child receives a naturally-balanced diet that includes the important nutrients your child needs in order to grow. A daily diet should include the major food groups of meat/fish/eggs, vegetable/fruit, bread/cereal as well as milk and other dairy products.
Can my child’s diet affect their dental health?
Absolutely. It is important that you initiate a balanced diet for your child so that their teeth develop appropriately. In addition, this will positively affect healthy gum tissue surrounding the teeth. Please note that a diet high in sugar and other forms of carbohydrates may increase the probability of tooth decay.
How do I create a diet that is safe for my child’s teeth?
As we stated earlier, initiate a balanced diet. Analyze the frequency in which starch- based foods are eaten. These types of foods include breads, pasta, potato chips, etc. In addition, sugar is found in more than just candy. All types of sugars can promote tooth decay. For example, most milk-based products contain sugar. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a favorite for bagged lunches. Unfortunately, it includes sugar not only in the jelly, but also in the peanut butter. For less sugar and more flavor and nutrients, try replacing jelly with fresh fruit slices (apples, pears, or bananas) or chopped dried fruit. Go easy on the peanut butter, though — it’s high in fat. Choose the “no-salt-added” kind for less sodium.
Should I eliminate all sugar and starch from my child’s diet?
Of course not. Many of these foods are incredibly important to your child’s health. Starch- based foods are much safer to eat for teeth when eaten with an entire meal. Foods that stick to teeth are also more difficult to wash away by water, saliva, or other drinks. It’s important that you talk to our staff about your child’s diet and to maintain proper dental care.
What helpful information can you give me regarding tooth decay in infants?
Most importantly, don’t nurse your children to sleep. Do not put them to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, or formula. When a child is sleeping, any liquid that remains in the mouth can support the bacteria that produce acid and harm the teeth. A simple pacifier or bottle of water is fine.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Tooth Loss
What should I do if my child’s baby tooth is knocked out?
Contact our office as soon as possible.
What should I do if my child’s permanent tooth is knocked out?
If severe facial injury has occurred, contact your emergency room. Otherwise, rinse the knocked out tooth with cool water. Do not scrub the tooth. If possible, replace the tooth in the socket and hold it there with clean gauze. If you can’t put the tooth back into the socket, place the tooth in a container of milk (or water if milk is not available.) or into the child’s cheek area as long as they don’t swallow it. Come to our office immediately. Feel free to call our emergency number if it is after hours. The tooth has a better chance of being saved if you act immediately.
What should I do if my child’s tooth is fractured or chipped?
If severe facial injury has occurred, contact your emergency room. Otherwise, contact our office as soon as possible. Time is of the essence! Our goal is to save the tooth and prevent infection. Rinse the mouth out with water and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. It’s possible that if you can find the broken tooth fragment, it can sometimes be bonded back to the tooth.
What do I do if my child has a toothache?
Call our office immediately to schedule an appointment. To help comfort your child, rinse out the mouth with cold water and apply a compress.
How can we prevent dental injuries?
Simple. Sport related dental injuries can be reduced or prevented by wearing mouth guards. Child proofing your home can help reduce injuries at home. In addition, regular dental check ups will contribute to preventative care.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Sealants
What are sealants?
Tooth sealant refers to a plastic that a dentist bonds into the grooves of the chewing surface of a tooth as a means of helping prevent the formation of tooth decay.
How do sealants work?
In many cases, it is nearly impossible for children to clean the tiny grooves between their teeth. When a sealant is applied, the surface of the tooth is somewhat flatter and smoother. There are no longer any places on the chewing part of the tooth that the bristles of a toothbrush can’t reach and clean. Since plaque can be removed more easily and effectively, there is much less chance that decay will start.
What is the life expectancy of tooth sealants?
The longevity of sealants varies. Sealants that have remained in place for three to five years would be considered successful, however, sealants can last much longer. It is not uncommon to see sealants placed during childhood still intact on the teeth of adults. Our office will check your child’s sealants during routine dental visits and will recommend repair or reapplication when necessary.
Which teeth should be sealed?
Any tooth that shows characteristics of developing decay should be sealed. The most common teeth for a dentist to seal are a child’s back teeth, and of these teeth, the molars are the most common teeth on which dental sealants are placed. The recommendation for sealants should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
What is the procedure for placing sealants?
Generally the procedure takes just one visit. Placing dental sealants can be a very easy process. The tooth is cleaned, conditioned, and dried. The sealant is then flowed onto the grooves of the tooth where it is hardened with a special blue light and then buffed. All normal activities can occur directly after the appointment.
How important is brushing and flossing after sealants are applied?
It is just as important for your child to brush and floss their teeth. Sealants are only one part of the defensive plan against tooth decay.
How much does it cost?
This treatment is quite affordable, especially when you consider the value of protection against tooth decay. Most dental insurance companies cover sealants. Check with your insurance company about your child’s coverage.
Frequently Asked Questions about A Gummy Smile
When some children smile, they may show an excessive amount of gum tissue. This is called a gummy smile and may be due to a few different problems:
Gum irritation and overgrowth from braces. This is more likely to happen if the teeth appear short before the braces are placed on the teeth. This problem results not from the quality of the orthodontic care, but is a result of pre-treatment gum and bone thickness.
Altered passive eruption. The gum and bone normally recede as a part of the normal eruption of the teeth. When this normal recession doesn’t occur, the gums cover too much of the teeth and make them appear “too short”. The teeth are usually not too short. They are usually of normal size but are buried under the gum and bone.
If there are habits such as digit sucking or grinding (bruxism), excessive pressure or tooth wear can alter the appearance of the teeth. The problems may be able to be corrected with orthodontics, surgical procedures, or dental restorations such as crowns or veneers.
Skeletal developmental problems affect the growth of the jaws and the teeth. If orthodontics is instituted between the years of seven and nine, some opportunity exists to add orthopedic correction to the upper and lower jaw bones. It may not be possible to influence the ultimate growth potential of each individual patient.
Before treatment, it is critical to properly evaluate the problems and get an accurate diagnosis. Some cosmetic issues can be easily corrected while others like skeletal problems can be more difficult to correct without surgery when a child has completed growth.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Mouth Guards
What is a mouth guard?
A mouth guard is comprised of soft plastic. They come in standard or custom fit to adapt comfortably to the upper teeth.
Why is a mouth guard important?
A mouth guard protects the teeth from possible sport injuries. It does not only protect the teeth, but the lips, cheeks, tongue, and jaw bone as well. It can contribute to the protection of a child from head and neck injuries such as concussions. Most injuries occur to the mouth and head area when a child is not wearing a mouth guard.
When should my child wear a mouth guard?
It should be worn during any sport-based activity where there is risk of head, face, or neck injury. Such sports include hockey, soccer, karate, basketball, baseball, skating, skateboarding, as well as many other sports. Most oral injuries occur when children play basketball, baseball, and soccer.
How do I choose a mouth guard for my child?
Choose a mouth guard that your child feels is comfortable. If a mouth guard feels bulky or interferes with speech to any great degree, it is probably not appropriate for your child.
There are many options in mouth guards. Most guards are found in athletic stores. These vary in comfort, protection as well as cost. The least expensive tend to be the least effective in preventing oral injuries. Customized mouth guards can be provided through our practice. They may be a bit more expensive, but they are much more comfortable and shock absorbent.