Children are at risk to injure their teeth, or suffer dental trauma, at just about any time. This includes damage to teeth as well as surrounding areas. While eating, playing, or taking part in other daily activities, kids can fracture, chip, loosen, or even knock out their permanent teeth. Fights are among the most common causes of kids’ dental trauma. The upper front teeth are the most likely to be damaged.

The effects of dental trauma can sometimes remain hidden.

When kids injure their teeth, the effects can be wide ranging and may not be evident for some time.

Not all types call for expert urgent care. You may not even notice mild trauma until a child sees the dentist for a regular exam. However, when a child fractures, displaces, or loses a tooth, there can be major negative effects.

Learn more: Dental Emergency Room Visits On the Rise

The possible effects are not just aesthetic or functional, either. They can also be psychological, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

In addition, according to Today’s Dentistry, the result of dental trauma may not be clear for some time. Hidden consequences may persist, and the true effects may be hard to guess until some time goes by. That’s because some types of impact can force teeth into the nearby bone and affect the supply of blood to the tooth. Over time, this can cause the tooth to fail.

The possible effects are not just aesthetic or functional, either. They can also be psychological…

So, for most dental injuries, it’s important to see a dentist soon or even right away for an expert diagnosis and treatment. However, the steps you should take in a dental emergency will depend on the type of trauma your child has suffered.

Tooth Extrusion: Loosened or Displaced Teeth and Kids

The signs and symptoms of tooth extrusion include loose, dislodged, or displaced teeth. Kids end up with this type of dental trauma frequently just by being kids. Rough play or an accident are the most common causes.

You may be able to save an extruded tooth if it is not broken and blood and nerve vessels are still attached. To save the tooth, do not remove it from the socket. Have your child carefully keep it in their mouth.

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You may give them an over-the-counter pain reliever or a cold pack to help them deal with the pain, if needed. Then, head for your dentist’s office or the nearest emergency room right away.

Tooth Avulsion: Knocked Out Teeth and Kids

Baby teeth are not re-implanted. However, if your child’s loses a permanent (or adult) tooth due to trauma, take these steps to help the tooth survive.

Before you see a dentist, be sure to do the following. Hold the tooth only by the top or crown, never by the roots. If it’s dirty, rinse it briefly in a dish filled with tap water. Do not scrub the tooth or detach tissue from it.

Then, if possible, gently insert the tooth into its socket and gently hold the tooth in place. It may not go all the way in, but you can have the child gently bite down on a small bit of gauze or a wet teabag to keep it in place, if needed.

Above all, be sure you do not allow the tooth to dry out. If it won’t go back into the socket, even partially, you can place it in milk or saliva. A warm mixture of ¼ teaspoon of salt to 1 quart of water can also be used to keep an avulsed tooth moist. If nothing else is available, have the child tuck the tooth into their cheek until you reach the dentist.

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Broken Teeth and Kids

If your child chips or breaks a tooth, call your dentist right away. Be sure to keep the pieces so you can take them to the dentist to be repaired.

Then, to clean the area, have your child rinse their mouth with warm water. Again, you may give the child an over-the-counter pain reliever or a cold pack to help them deal with any pain.

How to Help Prevent Dental Trauma in Children

Kids will be kids, and you can never protect them from every possible danger. However, if you know your kids will be taking part in rugged sports activities or other highly physical activities, wearing a fitted mouth guard can help to protect them from dental injuries.

You know you know someone who could use this information. So what are you waiting for?

Read next: Ways to Avoid a Painful Visit to the Dentist

If you follow our blogs about oral health, you know that dentists can detect potentially serious conditions that affect your entire body simply by looking in your mouth. A new study suggests dentists may also be able to spot bullying.

Bullying has grown into a major problem. It puts countless adolescents under heightened emotional stress. According to the New York Daily News, data collected in Brazil reveals that kids who experience bullying are more likely to grind their teeth while they sleep.

A Strikingly Common Habit

Oral health and bullying: Kids who were verbally bullied were four times as likely to grind their teeth.

Oral health and bullying: Kids who experienced verbal bullying were four times as likely to grind their teeth.

Researchers looked at the oral health and academic experiences of over 300 children ages thirteen to fifteen.

Sixty-five percent of the bullied students ground their teeth.

“Both children and adults tend to grind their teeth when suffering from stress,” says Dr. Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation. “…bullying is a significant contributor here,” he says. “Sleep bruxism can be particularly damaging as we are often unaware that we do it.”

What Causes Bruxism?

An abnormal bite can lead to bruxism. However, dentists usually attribute tooth grinding to stress, anxiety, and sleep disorders like sleep apnea.

In 2017, actor Demi Moore confessed to Jimmy Fallon that over the past two years, stress caused her to grind her two front teeth. In fact, she ground them so hard that her dentist had to remove them. The two, shiny front teeth she sported on The Tonight Show were fake.

Symptoms of bruxism include worn down teeth, hypersensitive teeth and jaw aches. As Dr. Carter said, most bruxism sufferers don’t know they grind their teeth. Not, that is, until someone who sleeps in the same room hears them in the act.

While people usually grind their teeth at night, some sufferers grind their teeth while doing chores or driving, the BBC reported.

A Vital Insight into a Child’s State of Mind

With this new evidence about the likely cause, nonprofits like the Oral Health Foundation are taking action. They are urging parents and school nurses to view these symptoms in children as signs of bullying or other emotionally debilitating problems.

“Bullying of any form is absolutely abhorrent and can have both a physical and psychological impact,” Dr. Carter said. Moreover, “when experienced in childhood, [these] can lead to trauma that might last throughout adulthood.”

“Grinding teeth may not sound like a priority within the wider picture,” Dr. Carter added. However, “…it could prove to give a vital insight into a child’s state of mind and could be an important sign for us to identify bullying at an earlier stage.”

Grinding teeth could be an important sign for identifying bullying at an earlier stage.

Dentists who detect bruxism may fit the patient with a plastic mouth guard to help protect the teeth. Arguably, the most effective way to break the habit, however, is to relieve stress via exercise, meditation, or even psychological counseling.

The only way to know if you have bruxism or your symptoms are a cause for concern is by going to the dentist at least twice a year. The cost of preventing this and other oral health conditions will far outweigh the cost of repairing damage.

Read next: Back to School Dental Care Checklist

America’s opioid epidemic has killed more than 180,000 since 2000. Unfortunately, many of the victims became addicted after doctors prescribed them drugs like Oxycontin and Percocet. These prescriptions, however, were likely not their first exposure to powerful painkillers.

opioids - Doctor holding prescription pad

When health pros prescribe opioids for high school students, they are one-third more likely to abuse the drugs in the future.

According to the New York Times, most opioid prescriptions for people ages ten to nineteen are written by dentists and oral surgeons. This is largely due to the tradition of prescribing opioids after wisdom tooth removal.  This procedure is performed on millions of patients under the age of 25 every year. Almost every patient who undergoes this procedure is prescribed opioids.

When health pros prescribe opioids for high school students, they are one-third more likely to abuse the drugs in the future.

Learn more: Back to School Dental Care Checklist

“They don’t develop their addiction from that experience,” says psychiatrist and addiction specialist Dr. Andrew Kolodny. “But because of it, they’re no longer afraid of the drug and they like the effect. They’re getting their first taste of the drug from a doctor or dentist, and that increases the likelihood they would use it recreationally.”

Reducing Opioid Addiction

The first step towards reducing opioid addiction is prescribing “more cautiously,” according to Dr. Kolodny. Increasingly, oral health professionals are heeding this advice.

Leading this initiative is Dr. Harold Tu, director of the division of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. Last year, he successfully lobbied the school to implement a new, mandatory protocol that teaches students to avoid opioids for their clinical patients.

The first-line treatment now consists of non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. These include ibuprofen (or NSAIDs) and acetaminophen. Tu’s students only prescribe opioids if the patient is allergic to one of these or needs stronger pain relief.

So far, Tu told the Times, “we have not seen an increase in patient complaints or patients returning saying ‘the NSAIDs are not working; I need something stronger’.”

Relief Equal To or Better Than Opioids

The notion that ibuprofen combined with acetaminophen could ever treat pain as effectively as opioids might seem a bit farfetched. However, a 2013 study found that the former treatment provides equal or better relief than the latter.*

Minneapolis oral surgeon Dr. Angie Rake used to give young patients “10 to 15 Vicodin” only to hear her parents’ ask for more. She has since reduced her opioid prescriptions by about 60%.  She now makes an effort to speak to parents about addiction.  “Now I have parents thanking me for taking time to educate them,” Dr. Rake said. “And a lot of times they say, ‘We’re really going to try to avoid these.’ ”

Now I have parents thanking me for taking time to educate them. And a lot of times they say, ‘We’re really going to try to avoid these.’

Dr. Rake is a firm follower of Dr. Tu along with Dr. Douglas Fain, president of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. He recently conducted a survey that found that half of his members have reduced opioid prescriptions. They now prescribe just three to four days’ worth of the drugs.

In addition to the number of prescriptions written, Dr. Fain has reduced dosage levels at his practice. “They’re here if you need them,” he says, but only for those in unbearable pain.

Read next: Ways to Avoid a Painful Visit to the Dentist

*Article Citation: JADA, Combining ibuprofen and acetaminophen for acute pain management after third-molar extractions, August 2013Volume 144, Issue 8, Pages 898–908.

Dental professionals are looking out for “Generation Z” kids. They’re urging parents to take infants to the dentist and warning of the outcomes of postponing their first visit.

Until recently, a first dental visit traditionally took place at age three or four. That’s because there was little concern over baby teeth that would eventually fall out. However, it’s not uncommon for kids to develop cavities as young as five or six.

Therefore, dentists around the world are now recommending that toddlers visit the dentist when they are only six months to one year old.

Why Generation Z Should Start Seeing the Dentist Early

South Carolina pediatric dentist Dr. Thom Atkins told the Aiken Standard that the earlier a child visits the dentist, the better his or her oral health will be as they age.

Learn more: 5 Positive Oral Health Benefits

young boy concerned about visiting the dentist

“We like to see children earlier than most people anticipate,” he said. “We prefer to see them within six months of the first tooth coming in or by the age of 1, whichever comes first.”

Early dental visits can identify problems before they evolve. In addition, this allows kids to learn to feel comfortable in a dentist’s office.

Kids can become frightened of the dentist if their first visit involves treating cavities or rotting teeth. Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at England’s Royal College of Surgeons, says that’s only natural.

“If a first dental visit results in a stressful, traumatic experience, this could have a serious life-long effect on a child’s willingness to engage in the dental process,” he told the Telegraph.

Learn more: Dental Anxiety and Kids: Parents, Caregivers, Dentists All Play a Role

Parents Can Hold Infants

Parents hold their children while the dentist performs an examination and applies fluoride. This, surprisingly, doesn’t cause discomfort in most young patients.

According to the Aiken Standard, studies have proven that children who receive fluoride applications during infancy are less likely to develop oral health problems. Moreover, avoiding cavities can save parents a good deal of money.

Early Visits Help Parent’s as Well

Additionally, much of these early visits are devoted to informing parents about brushing and flossing routines. Parents can also learn about the potentially harmful effects of pacifiers, sippy cups and sugary snacks.

mother teaching her Generation Z daughter how to brush her teeth

Parents of “Generation Z” kids should take infants to the dentist earlier than was previously recommended.

New research from England shows that most parents still believe children shouldn’t visit the dentist until they are three or four. Within the last year, 80% of one to two-year-olds in England did not visit the dentist. This may explain why 9,220 tooth extractions on children aged one to four were performed throughout the same period.  Of these extractions, 48 involved infants who were less than a year old.

Most of the extractions were attributed to tooth decay, the most common reason young British children find themselves in the hospital.

Along with many other widespread dental problems, tooth decay is highly preventable. The key is ensuring patients practice good oral hygiene. These annual figures mark a 24% increase in tooth extractions on British children aged one to four over the past ten years.

Read next: Infant Dental Care: Tips for Caring for Your Infant’s Teeth

Teeth are having a good run at the Supreme Court this year. SCOTUS has handed down decisions in two cases involving oral health during 2015.

Children can continue to reap the benefits, including healthy, happy smiles.

Children can continue to reap the benefits, including healthy, happy smiles.

In one of those cases, decided at the end of February, the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners challenged a lawsuit brought by the FTC and lost. The suit alleged the board had violated antitrust laws by barring non-dentists from providing teeth whitening services at mall kiosks.

It’s nice to know the folks in North Carolina can now enjoy low-cost teeth whitening where they shop, but there’s some really great news for US kids.

Here it is: When SCOTUS ruled this month that the ACA’s premium tax credits were not just for those who used a state-based exchange, it also helped pave the way to good oral health and better access to dental care for children.

Pediatric Dental Health and the ACA

According to the CDC, while for the most part preventable, tooth decay is still the most common chronic disease among US kids. The ACA, though, still has a chance to turn that around thanks to the Court’s latest decision.

While the ACA – like the insurance industry in general – oddly cuts off oral health coverage from coverage for the rest of the body, it does require some dental coverage for some citizens. Dental insurance for adults is not required under the ACA, but subsidized health plans must address at least 10 types of health care, the essential health benefits (EHBs). These include oral and vision services for kids.

Including dental coverage for children in the ACA was a huge step in the right direction. With the Court’s new decision on consumers’ eligibility for tax credits, millions of children can continue to reap the benefits, including healthy, happy smiles.

Affordable Care and Your Oral Health

The ACA provides a number of ways to purchase dental coverage. Some states include oral care benefits for kids within the health plans available on their insurance exchanges. Others separate out dental coverage as standalone products.

States may also define oral care benefits for adults as part of the EHBs for their citizens. Some roll those benefits into the health plans they offer. Others offer them as standalone parts of the benefits package.

Greater Consumer Choice and Enrollment Availability

You can obtain private dental plans both on and off the government-run insurance exchanges. For broader plan selection and the ability to enroll in a plan at any time, many people turn to the private dental marketplace. People that recognize oral health is not really cut off from general health, often enroll in a separate, stand-alone dental plan after they enroll in marketplace coverage.

For example, DentalInsurance.com provides consumers across the US with access to a very wide selection of dental coverage options. These include traditional dental indemnity plans, dental health maintenance organization (DHMO) plans, preferred provider organization (PPOs) plans, and even discount dental plans or cards.

We’ve made it easy for you to find individual dental insurance, dental coverage for yourself plus one other person, or even dental coverage for your whole family. To compare dental plans available in your area, simply enter your zip in the box on our home page.

Hooray for SCOTUS and the ACA! Now, be sure to exercise your constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of oral health!

Learn more about the ACA.

It all started with a call to a Transylvania outreach program for reformed vampires…

A little over two years ago, my then nine year old son, Theo, had to get two teeth pulled, his “canines”, or fangs as they say in the underworld. These were baby teeth that needed to be removed because his adult teeth coming in were looking impacted.

Our dentist wanted to “clear the decks” by pulling these teeth so the permanent teeth had more room to come in properly. This simple extraction would hopefully avoid a more complicated set of procedures later.

My son, having first-hand knowledge of my wife’s many dental phobias, was very skeptical of anything the dentist had to say. I’m a firm believer in the power of positive thinking, and I didn’t want Theo’s negative vibes to potentially derail his recovery. So, how could I get a nine year old to be interested in having two teeth pulled?

Tell him his sacrifice will save the life of a vampire.

What? You heard me. SAVE THE LIFE OF A VAMPIRE. Enter Hector, an undead blood sucker looking to take his life in a new direction. (In truth, it was my buddy Tim from upstate New York, but he did a great vampire impersonation and that was all I needed.)

Which brings us back to where we started, a call to a Transylvania outreach program for reformed vampires. We made the call and we were immediately connected to Hector, a vampire from Brussels (turned in the early 1800s) who had relocated to Transylvania. Tired of being chased by angry crowds with pitchforks, Hector had recently gone through the de-fanging process and was trying to blend in with the human world.

Theo had an instant bond his new undead buddy. Turns out, Hector was not a big fan of dentists either. Having your blood sucking fangs yanked is a frightening proposition, and — unlike my son’s baby teeth — vampire teeth don’t come back.

Hector’s recent shift from denizen of the night to dishwasher at an all-night diner had gone very smoothly. He was now hoping to move up the corporate ladder and become a waiter. Unfortunately, he was too shy to work the tables with huge gaps in his smile. Hector thought it was a dead (no pun intended) give-away to be missing his canines in this part of the world. He was sure the locals would figure out his real back story and start chasing him around with pitchforks yet again.

“I don’t vant to bite your necks anymore…”

Enter my son’s teeth. Over the next two weeks, Hector and Theo swapped stories, a friendship bloomed, and promises of shiny new teeth were made.

Hector, the vampire

My name is Hector, and I vill be your vaiter this evening.

On a crisp Monday morning, Theo and I went to the dentist carrying three things: The hopes and dreams of a reformed vampire, a sterilized specimen jar from the biology lab, and a well-padded shipping envelope. The extractions were done in an easy half hour and within another twenty minutes the teeth were packed in the jar, sealed in the envelope, and en route to Transylvania via our local post office.

We heard back from Hector a week later. The transplant had been a success and, new smile intact, he was starting his first shift as a waiter that very evening. He couldn’t send us a selfie for obvious “vampires don’t show up on film” reasons, but he assured Theo that the teeth looked awesome and sent a little sketch he did of himself.

It’s two years later and my son’s adult canines have worked their way into proper positions in his ever-so-sweet smile. We will always be thankful to Hector for helping Theo find the strength to “sacrifice” his own smile to save another’s.

We’re hoping to one day make the journey to Transylvania to see Hector, but for now, the three-by-five self-portrait of our undead friend will have to do.

Shawn PatrickThe Dental Dad is written by Shawn Patrick, General Manager of DentalInsurance.com. Shawn lives in Los Angeles with his lovely wife, 2 sons, Mac the dog, and three fish who shall remain nameless.

dental anxiety and kids

Some dentists are great at putting kids at ease.

Unfortunately, not every kid with dental phobia can be put at ease by a dentist who dresses up as the tooth fairy. And not every father has the comic skill and parental panache to turn Hermie’s horrifying dentistry in the 1964 animated TV special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” into a lesson on the importance of proper dental hygiene.

(Who can ever forget the “misfit” elf brandishing those gruesome pliers after extracting the Abominable Snow Monster’s teeth?)

Dental phobia or fear is, of course, no laughing matter. But there is a great deal that parents, caregivers and dentists can do – and are doing – to help kids get through the experience of a trip to the dentist with a smile.

Let’s take a look at some of the most effective interventions for dealing with dental fear in children.

What’s the most effective treatment of dental phobia in children?  

As in so many things in life, when it comes to kids and fear of the dentist, good communication is key.

Parents, caregivers and dentists all have a role to play in setting the stage for not only a good first visit to the dentist’s office, but a lifelong commitment to regular, professional dental care without fear and anxiety. How we frame those initial experiences with words can be very important.

Before the first trip to the dentist

To help ensure things go well during the first visit, your dentist may provide you with some “dos” and “don’ts” in advance. Things like, when talking to kids about the dentist and what goes on during a visit to the dentist’s office, avoid using words like “hurt,” “pain,” “shot,” and other words that have a negative or fearful connotation.

Rule of thumb: only say things that are positive.

Also, experts recommend parents answer children’s questions about the dentist, but, they suggest, don’t go into a lot of unnecessary detail. Be brief. If you don’t know the answer, or if the answer is a little on the complex side, suggest that you and your child save the question for, who else? The dentist. After all, they’re the ones who have years of training and a lot of practice talking to kids about what they do in non-threatening, kid-friendly ways.

…answer children’s questions about the dentist, but don’t go into a lot of unnecessary detail.

Above all, never tell kids about the time you had a terrible (or even unpleasant) time at the dentist. Instead, be sure they understand how important it is to take good care of their teeth. Let them know the dentist and dental office staff members are nice, friendly folks who enjoy helping people, both big and small, be as healthy and happy as they can be.

At the dentist’s office

Even if you’ve done your best to prepare your child for their new experience, it’s not uncommon, and it’s completely natural, for kids to be afraid sometimes. Some kids detest spiders. Others won’t go near a clown. Whether a child cries or throws a temper tantrum, any dentist who regularly works with children will have an array of techniques at her fingertips to put kids more at ease.

Again, in many cases it comes down to good communication. Many dentists who work with kids are quite adept at regulating their tone of voice, so that they are able to go from warm and comforting to gently commanding as the circumstances dictate.

Some dentists use a technique called “show, tell, and do.” It’s a way to explain, step by step, what tools the dentist is using, how they’re used, and what the dentist is going to do next. Pediatric dentists are also trained to use language that’s appropriate for the kids they work with, and there’s a good chance yours will use kid-friendly props – such as a giant tooth or doll – to show your kids what they’re about to do.

Distraction is another communication skill that dentists use to put kids at ease.

Distraction is another communication skill that dentists use to put kids at ease. Telling stories or having a conversation can help dentists focus kids’ attention somewhere other than on the procedure itself. And when needed, most dentists know that when it comes to kids’ behaviors, simple body language can go a long way toward accentuating the positive and discouraging, if not eliminating, the negative.

What can you do if nothing seems to help?

In some instances, it may take more than clever communication to help your child get through their time in the chair. In such cases, a dentist may recommend that a child use safe and effective medications such as nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) during their visit or take an oral sedative beforehand.

Finally, if you or your dentist feel your child’s fear of going to the dentist is extreme or out of control, therapy may be the answer. Therapeutic techniques, including psychotherapy (exploring the source of the fear), cognitive behavioral therapy (practicing practical strategies for dealing with it), and hypnotherapy, may help a child overcome their fears so they can receive and maintain the professional dental care they deserve.

Everyone is afraid of something. Learning how to face our fears is part of growing up.

Everyone is afraid of something. Learning how to face our fears is part of growing up. And you may be surprised. One day, a young adult who was frightened by a routine dental exam, teeth cleaning, or other dental procedure as a child just may decide that they, like Rudolph’s nerdy buddy Hermie, want to be a dentist.

Have you helped a child get past their fear of the dentist? What worked for you? Post your tips or a comment in the Reply section below!

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Most parents know about Early Childhood Caries (or cavities), also known as ECC. However, did you know covered cups for small children – notably sippy cups – can be detrimental to young teeth, too?

Early Childhood Caries also goes by another name: Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. ECC occurs when sugary foods and liquids create the thin film of bacteria known as plaque. Plaque produces acids that attack tooth enamel – for 20 minutes or longer after a meal – and create cavities. Protecting baby teeth from cavities is important because healthy teeth help young children learn to chew and speak.

Protecting baby teeth from cavities is important because healthy teeth help young children learn to chew and speak.

Sippy cups increase rthe isk of Early Childhood Caries in children.

Early Childhood Caries Risk: Sippy cups and baby bottles concentrate pools of sugary liquids at the teeth.

Sippy cups and baby bottles concentrate pools of sugary liquids at the teeth, increasing the likelihood of the development of cavities in small children. And though sippy cups are a nice transition from bottle feeding – and less likely to cause orthodontic issues than bottles or pacifiers – they’re just as bad as bottles with regard to forming cavities.

Why? They’re portable for a toddler, who’s likely to keep that sippy cup mouthpiece in his or her mouth just as frequently as a bottle – whether on the go or falling asleep.

Tips for avoiding early childhood caries

The solution for avoiding these kinds of cavities is fortunately fairly simple:

  • No bedtime food, cups or bottles. In addition to limiting the exposure of your child’s teeth to sugars, this limits choking hazards.
  • As soon as possible, get your child used to drinking from a non-sippy cup. Try not to use a sippy cup as a pacifier.
  • If you feel you must use a sippy cup, fill it only with water – never with sugary juices or liquids – and offer it only at mealtime or when your child’s thirsty. This will help limit the habit of carrying the cup around all the time.
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Finally, practice good oral hygiene methods to keep your toddler’s teeth clean and free of cavities. Brushing twice a day with an appropriately sized toothbrush and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste (approximately pea-sized) is a great start. Limit sugary snacks and beverages. And, of course, be sure to schedule regular visits to your child’s dentist for check-ups and cleanings.

Avoiding cavities is essential for all of us, but for our toddlers it’s particularly important. By keeping an eye on not only what they eat and drink, but how they do it, we can do our part to keep their mouths free of cavities for a lifetime.

Have you broken the sippy cup habit with your toddler? Leave a comment below to share what worked best for you!

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Dental Care When Babies Become Tweens and Tweens Become Teens

Kid's dental needs change.

From childhood through the teenage years, your children’s oral health needs change.

 

Our teeth are meant to last our entire lives. Pediatric dental care is caring for them properly in the first part of our lives. It is essential if we’re to enjoy them later on.

But that doesn’t mean that our children’s dental health needs are the same from childhood through the teenage years. Pediatric dental care can guide us along the way from baby teeth to fully mature adult teeth.

Young mouths need to be cared for, even if baby teeth haven’t come in yet. Oral bacteria can grow with or without teeth (and can also spread through saliva from mother to child), so starting a regimen of good oral hygiene habits early on is essential.

Start building good pediatric dental care habits

Wiping your baby’s gums after feedings with a clean, damp cloth will help remove food particles and the bacteria they produce. Once baby teeth begin to erupt, brushing gently with a child’s sized toothbrush and water will do the same. Usually tooth eruption begins around the six-month mark and is your reminder to schedule an appointment with your child’s dentist.

Pediatric dentistry guidelines encourage establishing a “dental home” for your child by their first birthday, a place where he or she (and you) can feel comfortable, ask questions, and receive guidance on what’s best for those new baby teeth.

By the time your child can be trusted to spit (rather than swallow) toothpaste, start using a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste for brushing. You should assist your child with this practice until the age of 6.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Another very important issue for baby teeth is Early Childhood Caries (ECC), or Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.

Read: Early Childhood Caries: The Truth about Sippy Cups

Many parents feed their toddlers sugary drinks in bottles or sippy cups. These bacteria-producing liquids tend to pool around the front baby teeth when administered this way, creating concentrated areas for potential decay. Avoid giving your child juices or sweetened water in a bottle or sippy cup, and don’t let your child fall asleep with these in hand (or mouth!).

If your water supply lacks proper levels of fluoride, pediatric dental care techniques can assist your child with fluoride washes and applications to strengthen baby teeth enamel. 

Once solid foods are introduced to your toddler, maintaining good eating habits will go a long way toward ensuring those baby teeth are replaced with healthy adult teeth. Besides providing excellent nutritional value, fruits, vegetables and whole grains can also leave less fuel for plaque to grow with. Adequate exposure to fluoride is a must for young children. If your water supply lacks proper levels of fluoride, pediatric dental care techniques can assist your child with fluoride washes and applications to strengthen baby teeth enamel.

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Dental hygiene as children grow older

As your child grows, their dental hygiene habits can slack off. School, sports, activities, friends, and junk food can all conspire to get in the way of good oral hygiene habits. Reminding your adolescent or teen that their baby teeth are gone and their adult teeth are the last set to come in is important. Also, hormonal changes can make teens susceptible to gingivitis and other periodontal diseases due to extra gum sensitivity. Make it easy for your teen to brush, floss and eat well. Plenty of healthy snacks around the house are a good way to avoid the temptation of junk food.

Tobacco – whether smoking or chewing – puts your teen at great risk for periodontal diseases, not to mention oral cancers.

Many teens require orthodontics, which require even greater vigilance in the oral hygiene department. Follow your orthodontist’s instructions on the proper way to keep braces and retainers clean.

It really all comes down to the oral hygiene habits you began practicing with your young child. If they can make brushing at least twice daily, flossing, and eating smart a priority, their teeth will likely last well past their own children’s formative years.

Do you have experience transitioning a child through the phases of dental care? What’s your best tip for others who are going through this now? Let us know in the comments section!

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Invisalign: The Unseen Answer to All of Your Smile’s Wishes? Pros and Cons of Invisalign Braces

Orthodontics: Learn all about the branch of dental science that specializes in correcting and preventing irregularities.