How do I brush my child’s teeth?
Proper oral hygiene should begin as soon as teeth start to erupt, generally around six months. Oral health can start with a wet cloth, wiping the gums and front teeth. Once the molars start to erupt (around age 1) a proper, child-sized toothbrush should be used at least twice a day. The bristles are needed to mechanically disrupt plaque so it cannot harden into calculus or tartar. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends using a fluoride-containing toothpaste before all 20 teeth have erupted. For children 0-2 years, a rice-grain-sized amount is sufficient, after age 2, the amount should resemble the size of a pea. Fluoride helps to prevent cavities and remineralizes tooth surfaces.
Is flossing necessary before adult teeth come?
Daily flossing should start once teeth start to contact each other. If teeth are all spaced, the toothbrush should clean in between sufficiently, however, once the contact areas close, only floss can reach in between to disrupt bacteria. Flossing is not just to remove stuck food, it also helps clean between the teeth to prevent cavities and cleans below the gums to prevent gum disease.
My child is very difficult, how am I supposed to brush their teeth?!
The sooner a regular habit of brushing and flossing is established, the more compliant most children are. Brushing can often be a struggle at first as the oral cavity can be a sensitive area, but as with most things, children usually respond well to routines. Some tips for more difficult children
can include: brushing teeth with child’s head in parents’ lap, swaddling busy children in a towel or blanket, having one parent distract with songs, books, shows while the other parent completes the brushing or reward charts for older children.
Can my child brush their own teeth?
Children need to build dexterity and skills over several years before they are capable of doing their own home care. Some basic guidelines to assess your child’s ability to use a toothbrush and floss properly include: being able to tie their own shoes, using a fork and knife to cut their food correctly and being able to write clearly with a pen or pencil. In general, boys take longer to build the proper manual dexterity to brush and floss on their own.
Besides brushing and flossing, how can I help protect their teeth?
Limiting a child’s consumption of processed, high sugar foods is one of the easiest ways to prevent decay. A diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits and healthy fats will aid in overall health as well as excellent oral health. Children should only drink milk and water, sweetened beverages such as juice and pop can rapidly destroy tooth enamel, resulting in cavities and staining.
Making oral hygiene an important habit, just like any other self-care habit such as eating healthy and exercising can shape a child’s future self into a positive, happy and healthy one. Contact us to schedule an appointment or to get more information.
Long ago dental work could be painful and stressful—often for both patient and practitioner. Thankfully, that time is long past: today, most procedures are painless in large part due to local anesthesia.
Local anesthetics are numbing substances applied to specific areas of the body like the teeth and gums to temporarily block pain during a procedure. And because they only affect a localized area of the body, you remain conscious and alert throughout the procedure.
To achieve the level of numbing necessary for dental work, we often need to deaden the gums using a needle to deliver the anesthetic. But then this poses a secondary pain concern—the needle stick itself.
Again, topical anesthesia comes to the rescue in the form of a swab, patch or spray applying an anesthetic directly to the top layer of the gums at the injection site. This numbs the area and prevents you from feeling the needle stick. It's highly probable, therefore, that from start to finish you won't feel any discomfort during your dental work except perhaps for a little pressure.
Local anesthesia truly is a game changer for dental care—and not just for the patient. A dentist who's concerned about their patient's comfort level may work hurriedly to complete a procedure. But if their patient is relaxed, the dentist can work calmly and methodically. The result is better, more focused care.
For all its improvements in the patient experience, though, there has been one consistent complaint—the numbness that often lingers for a while after the procedure is over. But there have been advances in recent years that have helped reduce this irritation: new anesthetic agents (even some that can reverse the anesthetic effect) and fine-tuned dosages can help keep residual numbing to a minimum.
Not all procedures like routine teeth cleanings or enamel shaping require anesthesia. But when it's appropriate, local anesthesia can make your next dental visit much more pleasant.
If you would like more information on how anesthesia benefits your dental care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Local Anesthesia for Pain-Free Dentistry.”
We've known for decades that fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and lowers the risk for decay. And while adding it to toothpaste and drinking water are the more common ways for getting it into the body, an increasingly popular way—especially for children—is to apply fluoride directly to the teeth.
But is topical fluoride really worth the effort and expense? And, are there any side effects to treating teeth this way?
As to the first question, researchers have performed numerous studies measuring fluoride's effectiveness for preventing tooth decay. The Cochrane Oral Health Research Group recently reviewed studies on topical fluoride applications involving nearly 10,000 children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 15. The combined average for all the studies showed a 28% reduction in decayed teeth for patients who received topical fluoride compared to those who didn't.
This was especially true for children at high risk for decay: directly applying fluoride gels, foams or varnishes to teeth reduces that risk substantially. But there are also side effects to this application. Fluoride in general has only one known safety concern, a condition known as fluorosis. Too much fluoride over time can cause heavy discoloration of the teeth. This does not affect the health of the teeth, but it can look unattractive and require cosmetic treatment to reduce its effect.
There's little to no risk for fluorosis with the controlled treatments offered by dentists; the fluoride solution remains on the teeth no more than a few minutes. But there is a possible side effect during treatment due to the relatively high dose of fluoride used. If the patient accidentally swallows some of the solution, the concentration of fluoride can cause stomach upset, vomiting or headaches.
Dentists minimize the chances for this by usually using the more difficult to swallow varnish form of topical fluoride on younger patients, and using trays or other barrier devices to isolate the fluoride solution from the rest of the mouth. Under professional supervision, it's rare for an accidental ingestion to occur.
The risks for these side effects are quite low, and the benefits of topical fluoride for reducing the chances for decay can more than outweigh them. Fluoride applications are one of many ways we can protect your child's current and future dental health.
If you would like more information on decay prevention techniques like topical fluoride, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Fluoride Gels Reduce Decay.”
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