Tips for Healthy Smiles

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What does cold or sweet tooth sensitivity mean?

tooth sensitivity

Many people have an uncomfortable sensation when eating something particularly cold or sweet. In fact, about half of the population has experienced tooth sensitivity at some point or another. This is a sign that something is not quite right but what exactly? There are a variety of reasons that your child might be feeling this sensitivity, and it’s important to track down why they’re in pain to determine the best course of action.

Most of tooth sensitivity comes from a lack of enamel due to brushing too hard, eating acidic foods, and more. Once that layer of enamel is lost, it exposes the inner layer of dentin that is much more sensitive to temperature and sweet treats.

There are other reasons your child might be experiencing this sensitivity. They could be suffering from a cracked tooth, gum disease, or just have naturally sensitive teeth. Getting to the root cause of the pain can guide your dentist to a solution.

One of the keys to a healthy smile is preventing the loss of tooth enamel before it causes any problems like tooth sensitivity. For example, you can teach your child to brush effectively but without much force, keeping the enamel hard and protective. If your child has a habit of clenching or grinding their teeth, this can also harm that enamel and cause damage.

Solutions can include special kinds of toothpaste, gels, and even dental work to remedy the cause of the sensitivities.

Teaching Your Child to Floss

When your child’s teeth start coming in, you’ll want to start brushing their teeth and teaching them how to do it. But it’s also time to start an equally important part of his or her oral care routine — flossing. It might seem more difficult to get your little one on the flossing bandwagon but this health practice shouldn’t get a bad rap.

The first thing to know is when to start flossing. This can be done as soon as your child has teeth touching each other. Many kids get their front teeth at the same time or very close together, making this a great time to teach your child to floss slowly. For the first few years, as your child grows and learns, you’ll be the one to execute the brushing and flossing, but it’s always a good idea to let your little one know what you’re doing to help them get used to the routine they’ll soon take over.

Just as you would with your own teeth, teach your child to floss by taking a small section of floss and curl it around their pointer fingers. Place the floss between two teeth and create a “c” shape around one tooth to scrape against the sides and the gum line. Repeat with all touching teeth and remember to use a different piece of floss with each tooth to avoid reinserting bacteria or food particles. This should be done once daily, in addition to any time your child feels that there is food stuck in his or her teeth.

There are plenty of ways to increase the enjoyment of flossing, including singing songs, watching videos, and playing games that show your child how much fun and how important oral care can be.

By creating this habit in your child’s formative years, it’s likely that this is one that they’ll carry with them through adulthood. Start now for your little one to keep a healthy oral care routine for life.

The Difference in Electric and Manual Toothbrushes

electric vs manual toothbrush

When shopping for a new toothbrush, you’re faced with a few options, including bristle softness and handle comfort. But there’s one other design element that you’ll need to pick: electric vs manual. There are many debates about which one is easier to use, better for your oral care, and even recommended by dentists. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the two.

Most electric toothbrushes make brushing more fun for kids so the task feels like less of a chore. The vibration is exciting and some toothbrushes even include a timer to make sure your little one is brushing for the recommended two minutes. The continuous movement gets into all the nooks and crannies and cuts down on the work needed from the brusher. This is especially great for the kids working on their motor skills.

Manual brushing is just as effective at cleaning teeth as long as the brusher is thorough. With a manual brush, it’s important to reach all exposed surfaces, including the tongue, and brush well. Manual tooth-brushing allows more control of the brushing speed, and if there’s gum sensitivity, this is a good way to keep tabs on it without the vibrations causing discomfort.

The truth is, one isn’t universally better than the other; there are pros and cons to each. Although electric brushes tend to provide a deeper clean, they’re more expensive. Meanwhile, manual brushes require more effort but are cheaper. The effectiveness of each toothbrush depends on the brusher’s personal needs and his or her oral care routine. Ask your dentist for more information and advice on the differences in the two brush types and which one might be right for you or your child.

Brushing Techniques to Avoid

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Although it’s true that brushing is much preferred to not brushing, there are ways that brushing teeth can be problematic or even harmful. Your child’s technique for brushing makes all the difference so be sure that he or she is only helping their oral care, not hurting it.

Brushing Too Hard

It’s likely that your child has been equating hard brushing with cleanliness and that’s not quite true. Gentle, even strokes are best and ideally should be made in a circular motion instead of side to side. This prevents your child from scraping his or her gums and even wearing down teeth enamel.

Not Replacing Your Brush

After months of using a toothbrush frequently, you’ll see the bristles start to wear down and fray. Such a toothbrush just isn’t as effective anymore. It can’t clean properly, not mention the bacteria that has built up from such heavy use. This is why it’s best to replace your child’s brush every 3 months or so, or whenever you notice a wear pattern that could make your child’s oral routine ineffective.

Brushing Less Than Two Minutes

We know that two minutes seems like a long time to brush your teeth, and even more so for a child, but it’s important to spend that long on your little one’s pearly whites. Most people only brush for 45 seconds or so and this simply doesn’t give the toothpaste’s fluoride enough time to take effect on teeth enamel. If this seems like a major feat to you or your child, try a toothbrush with a timer or play a song for the duration of your brushing.

When your child is first learning to brush his or her teeth, it’s important to get just the basics down but as they learn and grow, these are the tips to help them make the most out of their oral health.

Educating Your Child on Proper Oral Care

healthy kids oral care

You may have gotten your child’s oral routine down and they’re happily brushing away, but we all know children ask questions, a favorite one being  “Why?” When your little one starts to wonder “why” he or she should brush his teeth twice a day and how it should be done, it’s easy to get muddled in the details and end up confusing your child even more. We’ve got some tips on how to make it easier to educate your child on oral care the next time they ask.

Why?

One of the first questions your little one will start asking about anything is “why?” When this comes up for oral care, there are a few generic phrases you can use until your child can understand more complex answers. Start by reminding your children that their teeth need to be cleaned just like their bodies. Brushing your teeth is just like washing your body or your hair every day but you need to brush your teeth more because you eat. Once they’re old enough to understand the concept of plaque and cavities, instruct them on why brushing prevents decay and keeps teeth healthy.

How?

Teaching your child how to brush properly is a common issue many parents face. Some use games, apps, rewards, and more to teach and coax little ones to brush and brush right. It may take some time to get it right but make sure your child is brushing for two minutes and getting the tongue and back teeth, too.

When?

“We just brushed this morning. Why do I have to do it again?” Your child may seem confused at the frequency in which you need to brush your teeth. Educating them on how the food they eat can “dirty” their teeth and they need to be cleaned more often than their body or hair is a great start to this conversation. As they age, you can explain how plaque sticks to teeth and can cause harm if it stays there.

The technique you use to educate your child depend on your needs and your child’s needs. Children learn differently and it’s important to know how to approach your child with proper oral care as they age and grow.

What You Need To Know For Your Child’s First Loose Tooth

loose tooth child

Your little one has his first loose tooth; how exciting! While this is such a great time in your child’s life, it can also be a scary one. He or she may be frightened by the idea of losing a tooth and if this is your first encounter with it, it can be difficult for you, too. Here are a few tips for working through your child’s first loose tooth together.

One of the first things you should know is that children usually lose baby teeth in the order that they get them. For many, this means that the front teeth will become loose and be lost first, starting around age six. This process will keep going for several years until all baby teeth are replaced by permanent ones.

Permanent teeth grow in under baby ones as the roots of the baby teeth dissolve. As these roots disappear, you’ll notice your child’s teeth becoming looser and he or she may like to wiggle them back and forth. For some teeth, a little wiggling is enough but if a really loose tooth isn’t coming out, parents are encouraged to grasp the tooth firmly with a tissue or gauze and give it a quick twist. If the tooth is only a little loose, give it some time to loosen further.

Some teeth may come out but leave a part of the root in. These should push out or dissolve on their own but if your child experiences pain or swelling at the site of a loose or recently lost tooth, call us for a consultation.

If your child is nervous about losing his or her first tooth, assure them that the process is usually painless and one to be excited about. If your child still has questions, don’t hesitate to schedule time with Dr. Jacobs to talk about the process of this important milestone.

Here’s Why You Should Replace Your Toothbrushes More Often

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You already know that replacing your toothbrush every 3 to 6 months is recommended by most dentists, but do you know why? There are several reasons that it’s medically beneficial to exchange your old toothbrush for a new one a few times a year.

Bacteria

Even though the brush is cleaning your teeth, you’re not necessarily cleaning it. Although there are ways to store it to keep it as clean as possible, over time, bacteria can build up just from regular use. By drying your brush off and keeping it in a place free of dangerous pathogens (e.g., away from the toilet or hair spray fumes), you can extend the life of your brush. Bacteria may still build up, especially if you’ve been sick or don’t care for your brush properly.

Wear and Tear

After twice-daily use for many weeks, your brush’s bristles can wear down and even start to harm you rather than help you. As the bristles wear down, they lose the shape that experts have worked so hard to perfect for optimum cleanliness. They start to lose their effectiveness and simply can’t get to those areas that build up plaque.

Heavy handed brushing makes for an even quicker turnover rate for your toothbrush because all of that extra scrubbing results in more advanced wear and tear, not to mention the possibilities of such a vigorous brushing harming your gums (yes, even while trying to cleanse them).

To ensure you’re getting the best, cleanest brushing each and every time you pick up your toothbrush, know when to replace it with a newer one. Three months is a general guideline and depending on your needs, it may be more or less than that. Ultimately, your toothbrush shouldn’t exceed a lifetime of more than six months.

 

What is the Right Way to Floss?

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Your oral health routine should include several acts of cleanliness, including flossing. Most of us leave out that important part and end up suffering for it. If you’re not used to including flossing into your routine, it might be tricky starting out. Or you might be flossing every day but not actually flossing correctly. So what is the right way to floss? We’ve got a step-by-step to help you floss like the pros. But first, let’s look at why flossing is important.

The Why

Flossing is a great addition to your twice-daily brushing and rinsing routine. Your brush can’t reach those spots in between your teeth and leaving the plaque and bacteria there to build up can cause enamel erosion and can eventually end in tooth decay.

The How

First, take about a foot and a half to two feet of floss. Wrap both ends around each of your middle fingers leaving about an inch or two in between. Hold the floss tight and run it between each of your teeth, curving it around the sides of each tooth. Be careful not to force the floss down as this can cut or harm your gum beds. As you move from each tooth, move the floss around your fingers to get a clean section.

If you’re still a little confused on technique, ask us to give you a quick demonstration next time you stop by for a cleaning!

April: National Facial Protection Month

If your child plays any type of contact sport or is frequently in a Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) only zone, you know the risks (and the outcomes) of having facial damage. Because April is National Facial Protection Month, we feel that it’s our duty to inform you about the various things you can do to protect your child’s faces from injuries. Check out the tips below.

Wear a mouthguard. This one’s a no brainer. Take the time to select a mouthguard that fits your child’s mouth (you don’t want it falling out before it can protect or possibly cause more damage because it’s a bad fit) and encourage them to wear it whenever you think their mouth may be at risk. There are a variety of mouthguards available, from simple ones for a couple of dollars at a drugstore to specially designed ones that are meant for only your mouth.

Try a helmet, too. With full-contact sports, a sharp blow can really break some bones. A helmet (especially one with a face guard) can absorb some of that hit and protect the face in the process.

Many sports, like boxing, football, and hockey, require mouthguards. But there are many dangerous sports that don’t. Your child should wear a mouthguard when there’s a risk of facial damage, even when it’s not required. Children who are 7 to 11 years old are most susceptible to facial injury from sports and athletes who don’t wear mouthguards have a much higher chance of injury.

Depending on your budget and needs, pick the right protection for your child, not only this April but all the time.

4 Common Causes of Bleeding Gums in Children

Just like with any injury or issue, it can be a million times more alarming when it happens to your children. Whether it’s a broken arm, a cut knee, or bleeding gums while brushing or flossing, you’ll certainly be concerned. The first two examples have clear causes and solutions but that third one might be a mystery to you. Bleeding gums is a sign of a bigger issue so let’s look at the causes that may have rendered such a reaction. You’ll know better how to address the issue once you pinpoint the cause.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the inflammation of gums, usually caused by failure to remove plaque. When plaque builds up at that baseline, the surrounding gums swell, become tender, and bleed. Your child may need a professional dental cleaning or a better, more consistent oral routine at home. Changing the diet may help, also.

Flossing

This healthy habit could be the cause. If your child took a break from flossing for several days, it could be likely that they begin to bleed the next time they pick up the floss. Without continuous flossing, your gums become irritated by those first few attempts back at it.

Vigorous Brushing

We know brushing is a crucial step in your child’s oral hygiene but if they have a hard bristles brush or tend to brush harder than necessary, this can irritate the gums and make them bleed. Try switching to a softer-bristled brush and go over some techniques for gentler brushing.

Age

As your child ages and gets closer to puberty, their hormones circulate and blood may pump closer to the surface of the gums, making them more susceptible to swelling and bleeding from gingivitis. Keeping up with your child’s regular dental check-up and making sure they continue a healthy oral routine is imperative to preventing or treating the problem.

There are several other causes for bleeding gums, including medical side effects, deficiencies, and severe medical conditions. If your child has severe bleeding, other reactions like difficulty breathing or swallowing, or the condition hasn’t cleared after altering routines, talk to your doctor.

What is a Waterpik®?

waterpik

There are plenty of decisions you have to make for your child, especially when it comes to their health. One such decision is deciding between flossing or using a waterpik, or maybe even relying on both. The answer to that is, “It’s really up to you.” We know that’s not exactly the answer you’re looking for but different situations call for different oral-care techniques. We’ll give you a few tips here to help make the decision for yourself. First let’s look at what a waterpik is and how it compares to flossing.

A waterpik is a continuous pressured stream of water that can go in between teeth, braces, arches, permanent retainers, or bridges. It helps to rinse off and flush out food. A waterpik can reach those hard-to-get-to spots and wash out toxins, food, and bacteria. It’s a great option for those who have a hard time flossing or are unwilling or unable to put in the daily effort.

However, the two aren’t exactly interchangeable. Waterpiks simply rinse away debris while flossing helps to removes plaque. We know it can be like, well, pulling teeth to get your child to brush, let alone floss. If you’re tired of the daily fight, a waterpik may be the fun, interactive alternative you’re looking for.

Be sure to use a waterpik before brushing so you can brush and rinse away anything that’s become dislodged in those first step. It’s recommended to use the two (flossing and waterpiking) together, although each can be a great help in getting the job done.

Is Your Family Storing Toothbrushes Properly?

toothbrushes

You’re told to replace your toothbrush every 3-6 months, when you’ve been sick, or when the bristles start to bend or angle. But if you don’t store your brushes correctly to begin with, you could end up having to replace them more often, or worse, brushing with an unhealthy brush.

There are plenty of ways to store your toothbrushes but not all are equally beneficial. You see all sorts of ways to store your brushes on Pinterest, in guest bathrooms, and even the hygiene aisle of your local superstore. But keeping your brushes organized is only half of the battle. Here are some tips to make sure you’re storing your toothbrushes in the best way.

It’s usually best to store brushes upright (bristles up!) and let them air dry. If you’re keeping the entire family’s brushes in one spot, or at least a couple of them, make sure that the heads are separated from each other.

If you like to keep your brushes in a travel case, don’t cover them up until they’ve completely air dried. Wet bristles stand the chance of harboring bacteria.

When you’ve finished cleaning your pearly whites, make sure your brush is just as clean. Rinse off the brush head with tap water so it’s free of toothpaste.

As for location, be sure that the brushes are far from the hands splashing soap and water in the sink or the flushing of the toilet. Particles can fly far sometimes, so make sure your brushes are stored far enough away from the action.

In the same vein, keep your toothbrushes away from cleaning supplies or odor fresheners. Just a simple spray of an aerosol could contaminate your brush if it gets too close.

Even if you’re storing your brush bristles up, know when to replace your holder. With water constantly dripping from your brush into the bottom, the container can get dirty and moldy in a short amount of time. Clean your brush holder regularly or buy a new one with your new brush, ideally with holes for drainage.

Keeping your teeth clean is important but making sure the tool you use is just as clean is important too. Take care to store your brushes correctly and you’ll be on the way to the best oral health you can get.

5 Apps that Will Help Get Your Kid Brushing

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By now we are used to hearing the phrase, “There’s An App for that!” Our children are surrounded by technology, iPads, smartphones, tablets and smart TVs. Weeping! Whaling! Gnashing of teeth! No more of that for you. Let’s explore 5 apps designed to make sure your little one is not only brushing their teeth, but is blissfully happy to take on the task.

  1. For the little princess or prince in your kingdom, there’s “Tooth Fairy World.” This app inspires children to brush their teeth as they follow a brushing timer, with guess who? The tooth fairy! She keeps them brushing for two minutes with a timer. The app also includes a Fairy Alarm Clock alerting little ones according to their wake-up time to grab their toothbrush, brush, and receive their star for the day. This app is free and available on Apple and Android devices.
  2. Cartoons are invading everywhere. Who’s complaining? The app, “Toothbrush Buddies,” uses animated characters to entertain kiddies while brushing with great original music and three ways to earn points. The more they brush, the more new characters they unlock. There’s a toothbrushing ninja and yes, the tooth fairy joins in on the fun. This app is .99 cents and available only on Apple devices.
  3. “Chomper Chums” is an app that not only encourages good dental hygiene, but gives children details on which part of the mouth to focus on. It encourages them to learn the quadrants of their gums by showing a cartoon character’s mouth as a diagram. It also encourages healthy food choices as you reward your character with fruits and veggies. This app is free on Android devices.
  4. “BT’s Dental Toothbrush Timer” is simple, but uses a lovable superhero to engage children in brushing. BT is a tooth dressed in a cape and holding a giant toothbrush, charging you to brush for a full two minutes with fun brushing music. This app is free on Android devices.
  5. For the kids who want more excitement and big kid fun when brushing there’s, “Brusheez -The Little Monsters Tooth Brush Timer.” There is so much to do in the app. Choose a pal. Tickle its tummy for more activity. Change its colors. Get your brush ready. Set your timer and brush away with a new character every day. This app is free on Android devices.

These apps will not only help soothe your little ones, but hopefully make their night and bedtime routines easier to manage and more fun. The goal of achieving great dental hygiene habits will be reached before they even realize it. And guess who inspired it all…Thanks Mom and Dad.

How to Help Your Child Overcome Fear of the First Dentist Visit

dental-chair

For a child, the first dentist visit can be intimidating and scary: There are lots of unfamiliar faces, unusual noises and a completely new environment. It’s not surprising then that a child might feel hesitant about stepping his or her foot into the dentist’s office for the first time. The good news is that there are plenty of ways you can prevent your child from ever developing these fears. Here are some tips that will help to make that first dental visit easy on you and your kid.

  1. Start Early. We always stress the importance of bringing your child in for their first visit at a young age. At 6 to 12 months, they won’t worry about a thing but they’ll start to get accustomed to the environment. For older children, we recommend a personal tour of our office. That introductory visit can set them up for a lifetime of pleasant experiences at the dentist.
  2. Make it Sound Simple and Fun. A little preparation goes a long way. There’s no need to tell your child that they’re going to the dentist to be checked for cavities or other problems. Instead, reframe the visit with positive words and phrases (“We’re going to make sure your teeth are healthy and strong!”). Ask them if they have any questions. A trip to the library might be helpful too: There are many books that address first dental visits and make them sound empowering and exciting.
  3. Play Pretend. Turn your living room into a dentist’s office. Count your child’s teeth with a toothbrush or finger and then let them do the same on you or a favorite doll. Explain what an x-ray is and talk about the importance of brushing. It may sound silly but recreating an exam at home can help your child feel prepared for the real thing.
  4. Create a Distraction. If your child has a favorite toy or blanket, bring it along. These items are not only comforting but they help to keep your kid’s mind in a happy place and distract from any unpleasant feelings.
  5. Choose a Pediatric Dentist. A pediatric dentist has two additional years of training that prepares them to address pediatric dental concerns and other special needs of children. Dr. Jacobs and her staff adhere to the philosophy of “Tell, Show, Do”: We earn your child’s trust by telling them what’s about to happen during the visit and showing him or her how we’re treating the problem before we do it. Our office environment is geared toward children: it’s fun, welcoming and comforting.
  6. Offer a Reward. Reinforce a great visit to the dentist’s office with a treat. It can be a movie, a new toy, a trip to the zoo or another fun experience. Offer this treat as an extension of the pleasant experience, not a bribe.

Dental X-Rays for Children

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Dentists use x-rays, also called radiographs, as a valuable diagnostic tool. For a procedure so noninvasive, quick and painless, an x-ray can provide a wealth of information about a child’s oral health. They help dentists visualize your child’s entire mouth, note the number and size of teeth that have come in, and see the position of teeth that are yet to erupt. They may also be used to:

  1. Monitor the development of or detect cavities
  2. See if there are missing or extra teeth
  3. Prepare for orthodontic treatment
  4. Detect problems that cannot be seen during a visual exam

There are four types of x-rays: Periapical, panoramic, bitewing, and occlusal. Your dentist will choose which x-rays to take and when based on many factors, including your child’s dental history and development. Insurance generally covers bitewing x-rays twice a year and a panoramic x-ray once every three years. Check with your insurance agent to determine which procedures are covered.

Insurance coverage aside, there are no specific guidelines as to when your child will need to be x-rayed. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry does recommend that children who are at a high risk for tooth decay are x-rayed every six months.

If you are concerned about radiation, rest assured that today’s x-rays are considered very safe and expose your child to a minimal amount of radiation. In addition to using a body apron to shield your child’s body, dentists today can also focus radiation only to the specific part of the mouth that needs examination. Modern high-speed films also require less radiation to be used. When all safety precautions are taken, the benefits of dental x-rays far outweigh the minimal exposure to radiation, even in children.

Tooth Sensitivity in Children

toothpaste-and-toothbrush

If your child avoids brushing his or her teeth, it might be more than just stubbornness. Just like adults, children can suffer from tooth sensitivity that causes sharp and sudden tooth pain and tingling during brushing and chewing. The sensation can come and go but it may make your child avoid brushing altogether.

There are many reasons a child can develop sensitive teeth, and many of the reasons are true for both adults and children. Some common ones include:

  1. Cavities and tooth decay
  2. Improper brushing technique (brushing too hard)
  3. New teeth that cause grinding
  4. Teeth grinding
  5. Sinus issues
  6. New fillings

Mild tooth sensitivity can be managed at home. Start by picking out a toothpaste specifically formulated for sensitive teeth. Keep in mind that it will take at least 2 weeks of daily use for de-sensitizing toothpastes to begin to provide relief. Switching to a toothbrush with soft bristles may help with irritation and minimize the effects of an improper brushing technique. See our guide to proper brushing. Continue to encourage your child to floss daily.

If these recommendations don’t ease your child’s tooth sensitivity, it’s best to bring him or her in for a proper dental checkup with Dr. Jacobs. Dr. Jacobs knows how to put your child at ease and will ask the right questions to help to identify the root cause of their tooth sensitivity. Once the cause is identified, we can determine the best treatment. For some children, we may recommend a fluoride mouthwash or gel that helps to strengthen tooth enamel, relieve tooth sensitivity and lower the chance of tooth decay.

What Thumb Sucking and Pacifiers do to a Child’s Teeth

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Nothing is cuter than seeing a baby drifting off to sleep with his thumb or pacifier tucked firmly in his mouth. It’s an adorable self-soothing method that they can carry with them for years. This habit only becomes a problem as a child’s teeth start coming in, as frequently sucking on a pacifier or thumb can alter the shape of the child’s mouth.

You should try to break your child’s thumb sucking habit before they turn two. The teeth that grow in while a child is thumb sucking can grow in around the shape of the thumb, causing them to stick out. If your child stops thumb sucking before permanent teeth begin to grow, it’s possible that the teeth will correct themselves, but it’s just as likely that orthodontia will be needed to correct the positions of these teeth.

Some children simply rest their thumb in their mouth, while others actively suck it. Children who actually suck their thumbs are more likely to have dental problems than those whose thumbs rest passively in their mouths. The act of sucking pushes the teeth as they grow and changes the shape of their mouth.

If you want to help break your child from this habit, remember that children often suck their thumbs as a result of anxiety. Punishment for thumb sucking is more likely to make the problem worse than to make it better, so you should focus on praising your child for not sucking their thumb.

If your child is old enough, you can also have the dentist explain why it’s important to stop thumb sucking. The dentist will be able to show your child pictures or offer a good explanation of what can happen to their teeth if they let this habit continue.

More than anything else, it’s important to remember that thumb sucking is a natural instinct for your child and they will eventually grow out of it.

Proper Dental Hygiene for Toddlers and Infants

infant-smiling

Everyone knows that you should brush your teeth and floss at least twice a day, but at what age should you start requiring this of your children? Babies don’t even have teeth at first, so should you wait until after they start teething to start a dental routine?

If you want to prepare your child for good lifelong dental hygiene, you should start caring for their oral health before they even have teeth. As soon as your baby is a few days old, you can help by gently wiping their gums clean with a moist washcloth.

Once your child’s teeth begin to come in, start brushing them! For children under the age of three, you can just use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste to get the job done. Once they have two teeth that are touching, start using that floss.

After your child turns three, they can start using a little more toothpaste and earning a little more responsibility when it comes to their daily routine. It’s important to supervise your little one’s brushing to make sure they don’t accidentally eat any of their toothpaste, but they can be trusted to start brushing.

It’s also important that you make sure your child never falls asleep while drinking their bottle. When this happens, the liquid spends a lot of time pooling around their little teeth, which can cause cavities. This is known as baby bottle tooth decay. If your child needs to suck on something to fall asleep, offer them water or a pacifier.

Getting an early start is a key factor in helping your child develop a life of good oral health and habits.

Dealing with Dental Emergencies

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Medical emergencies are scary enough, but when the problem is with your teeth or jaw, it can be even harder to know what to do. For a broken leg you can call 911, but what do you do for a broken tooth?

If you find yourself facing a dental emergency, either for yourself or a loved one, the first thing you should do is stop to evaluate how serious the emergency is. Although anything to do with your teeth might feel like an urgent problem, some are more serious than others.

If you have bleeding that won’t stop, a knocked out permanent tooth, painful swelling, or a painful toothache, those are urgent dental emergencies. If you have a dental emergency, please call the office at 478-405-7797. For after-hours or weekend emergencies, please call the main line for additional contact instructions.

Until you’re able to make it to see a dentist or an emergency room doctor, you should take some at-home measures to alleviate your discomfort. These tips will work whether it’s an urgent or non-urgent emergency:

  1. Dissolve salt in hot water and use the cooled mixture as a mouthwash. The combination of salt and warm water helps relieve pain and swelling in your gums.
  2. Lost a tooth? Put it in a glass of milk until you get to the dentist. The milk will help keep the tooth root alive until your dentist can take care of it.
  3. Use a cold compress and take some Advil, Motrin, Tylenol or Orajel to help relieve the pain of a toothache.

It isn’t possible to completely prevent dental emergencies, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. If you play sports, wear a mouth guard to protect your teeth and gums. Avoid chewing hard objects, like popcorn kernels and ice, that could crack your teeth. Most importantly—visit your dentist for checkups to identify any problems that arise before they do become emergencies.

How to Prevent Cavities

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To really understand how to prevent cavities, you need to understand how cavities are formed in the first place. Plaque is a thin film of bacteria that sticks to your teeth, eating away at the protective layer of enamel. Whenever you eat or drink anything sugary or starchy, the plaque uses that as fuel in its war against your teeth.

Saliva is a natural protectant for your teeth. It works to help fight the enamel loss caused by plaque. Drinking water and eating foods like apples that are firm and watery are good ways to increase your saliva and can gently remove plaque as you chew.

When saliva starts losing the war against plaque, your teeth lose too much enamel. This leaves a white spot on your tooth where the minerals have been lost. Over time, this area becomes darker as the bacteria grows and the cavity develops. Once a cavity has made its home in your teeth, a dentist must remove the damaged area and repair it with a filling.

If you want to keep your teeth healthy and cavity-free, you need to take some steps to prevent cavities from forming. There are a few things you can do at home to keep your teeth healthy:

Use toothpaste and mouthwash with fluoride

Fluoride is an element that is often added to dental care products. It works by replacing minerals stripped away by plaque and by reducing plaque’s ability to cause further harm to your teeth.

You should brush your teeth at least twice a day—right after you get up in the morning and right before you go to bed in the evening.

Fluoridated water is also available, helping build up your enamel from the inside out.

Limit your snacking

Every time you eat is a new chance for plaque to grow on your teeth. Snacking less gives your saliva more time to rebuild your tooth enamel without having to fight the bacteria.

If you do snack during the day, especially on a food with a lot of sugar or starch, you should brush your teeth as soon as you finish so that plaque doesn’t have time to develop.

Visit the dentist

You should go to the dentist for a cleaning and a checkup at least twice a year. This way, the dentist can let you know if a problem is developing before it gets serious enough to require in-office treatment.

Once you know how to prevent cavities, it’s easy to incorporate the steps into your routine. Just a few steps each day can keep your teeth healthy and cavity-free.

Toothbrush Replacement & Care

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Do you know how long you and your child have been using your current toothbrushes? If you don’t, it might be time to take notice. Old, worn-out toothbrushes are not as effective at removing plaque from teeth or getting in the nooks between them. So though it may seem insignificant, replacing toothbrushes is an important step in maintaining good dental hygiene.

When to Change Your Toothbrush

For most people, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends replacing toothbrushes every 3 to 4 months. Children are notorious for brushing more vigorously than adults, so they may need their brushes replaced even more frequently. Though we’ve all heard the advice to change toothbrushes after a bout of cold or flu, there are no studies to support this theory.

Tips for Replacing a Toothbrush

If you notice that your or your child’s toothbrush has bristles that are frayed (not straight), it might be time to throw it out. Another tip is to write the date you started using your new brush on the back of the handle. And the best way to stay on top of this habit is to buy several brushes at a time so you can always have a new one on hand when it’s time to replace.

Toothbrush Care

Now that you know when to throw out that old toothbrush, here is some advice on taking care of the one you’re using today. Toothbrushes actually require nothing beyond a good rinse under tap water to wash off leftover toothpaste, debris and saliva. Store the brush upright to let it air dry; storing it in an enclosed container creates a breeding ground for bacteria. Use a toothbrush holder with a separate hole for each brush to avoid transfer of bacteria among the people in your household. This is especially important if someone in your house suffers from tooth decay.

Finally, no matter how often you replace your toothbrush, remember to brush for 2 minutes and floss twice daily!

Choosing the Right Toothpaste for Your Child

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The dental-care aisle is often referred to as the “aisle of confusion.” That’s because its shelves are lined with dozens of brands and hundreds of choices for toothpaste, with each tube in a shiny and colorful box that screams for your attention. The process of picking out the toothpaste for you and your child can not only be confusing but overwhelming too. So, where to begin?

First and foremost, look for a toothpaste that carries the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. As the ADA explains it, “The American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance is like having your dentist with you when you shop. When you see the ADA Seal, you can be sure the product inside has been scientifically evaluated to be safe and effective.” Not all products that apply for the seal pass the strict requirements established by the ADA.

Second, check if the toothpaste of your choice contains fluoride. Fluoride has been shown to significantly reduce the rate of tooth decay and help to strengthen enamel. Because children often swallow toothpaste (especially if it tastes good!), make sure to teach your child to squeeze out just the right amount to get the job done. Swallowing too much fluoride can lead to stomach aches. For children under the age of 3, a small dot or smear is enough. For older children, use a pea-size amount.

Third, avoid toothpastes that contain harsh abrasives. These can damage the enamel of younger teeth. Whitening toothpastes and toothpastes that contain tiny beads fall into this category.

Finally, choose the toothpaste that your child will love and want to use every day. Most toothpastes that contain mint and cinnamon can be too spicy and strong for a child. Toothpastes geared toward children usually have fun flavors such as bubble gum and watermelon that not only taste more appealing, but also will encourage your child to brush regularly. Get more tips from Dr. Jacobs on proper brushing and flossing technique by visiting our Preventative Care guide.

Should Your Child Wear a Mouthguard When Playing Sports?

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Mouthguards are essential pieces of athletic equipment that let your child play to their full potential while limiting their chances of chipping or losing teeth and injuring their lips, cheeks, or tongue.

What is a Mouthguard?

For more than a hundred years boxers have been using mouthguards to protect their teeth from impact trauma.  Through the years, dentists and researchers have refined them.  Today, mouthguards, also called mouth protectors, are U-shaped pieces of plastic that usually fit over the upper teeth where they protect the soft tissues of ones lips, tongue, face and jaw.  If you have a protruding jaw, your dentist may recommend that your lower teeth also be covered.

Who Should Use a Mouthguard?

Mouthguards should be considered essential athletic equipment for athletes of any age.  Numerous surveys documented that participants of all ages, genders, and skill levels are at risk of sustaining sports-related dental injuries.  The American Dental Association recommends that you wear a properly fitted mouthguard if you participate in any collision and contact sports, and also many non-contact sports such as gymnastics and cycling.

What Type of Mouthguards Are There?

There are three basic types of mouthguards to choose from:

  1. Stock: These mouthguards are pre-formed, inexpensive and ready to wear. They are readily found in sporting goods stores and they offer some protection.  They can also feel bulky and make talking and breathing difficult.
  2. “Boil and Bite:” These are made of thermoplastic material that softens when boiled and will mold around the teeth when bitten down on. These are also readily found in sporting goods stores, inexpensive and fit better than stock protectors.  When shopping for these mouthguards look for the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance.
  3. Custom-made: These are the best fitting and most comfortable.  These mouthguards cost more, but they offer the most protection because they are specifically made from a dental impression of your mouth.

If you have any questions about which mouthguard would work best for your child, or would like a custom-made one, please call Dr. Jacobs office and set up an appointment.

How to Motivate Your Child to Brush Their Teeth

Don’t worry if your child doesn’t take to brushing their teeth immediately – few children do. As with all healthy habits, small steps and changes will make a big difference. Here are some tips to help you encourage your little one to brush regularly and build health habits early.

  1. Start early – even before they brush their own teeth. It’s never too early to instill good dental hygiene habits in your child. When you brush your child’s teeth, walk them through every step of the process and explain the importance of maintaining healthy teeth along the way.
  2. Brush your teeth at the same time as your child. Children like to copy grown-ups and they’ll be more likely to engage in this habit if you show your own enthusiasm. Take this time to also demonstrate good technique.
  3. Get a kid-friendly toothpaste. Toothpastes formulated specifically for children feature yummy flavors (e.g., bubble gum and watermelon) to make brushing more accessible and fun. They often have mess-proof caps.
  4. Choose a fun toothbrush. As with toothpaste, choosing a kid-friendly toothbrush will make brushing feel like less of a chore. Children’s brushes might feature your child’s favorite TV and movie characters, come in bright colors and are easier to hold. Look for a small brush head that can be easily maneuvered around a small mouth.
  5. Reward the routine. Rewarding good behavior helps to reinforce it. Brushing twice daily can be rewarded with extra computer time, playtime or another treat. Just don’t reward brushing with candy or ice cream.
  6. Make it fun. Nobody wants to think of teeth brushing as a chore. Why not turn it into a game? Who can brush all teeth the fastest? Who can make the most bubbles? To help make it stick, make sure you reward success!

Dentist-Approved Books for Kids

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When you instill good dental habits in your child, you set them up for a lifetime of better oral health. That’s because children who hold a positive view of the dentist and understand the importance of regular dental checkups are more likely to maintain these healthy habits in adulthood.

In our guide for first-time visits, we recommend that you use educational children’s books to steer the conversation with your child about the importance of their oral health. Here are six books to help you do just that. The stories in these books are educational, entertaining to read and cover a range of topics, from brushing 101 to what to do about that wiggly loose tooth. We hope you enjoy reading with your child and helping to ease their fears in the process!

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Brush Your Teeth, Please: A Pop-up Book by Leslie McGuire; Ages 2 to 5
This pop-up book will grab your youngster’s attention with its colorful illustrations. From a chimp that brushes to a shark that flosses, proper dental hygiene has never been so fun and simple to learn.

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The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Stan Berenstain; Ages 3 to 7
Published in 1981, this is another classic yet entertaining story from the Berenstain Bears series. After watching her brother get a filling, Sister Bear braves her turn in the chair to have a loose tooth removed. The book is both cheerful and educational.

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Dentist Trip (Peppa Pig) by Scholastic; Ages 3 to 5
If your child is already a fan of the Peppa Pig series, they’ll enjoy this story about overcoming jitters of the first visit to the dentist.

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The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss; Ages 3 and up
Who has teeth? What do they do? How do you keep them healthy? Your child will learn all that and more in Dr. Seuss’s ode to teeth. Readers say it is hilarious and enlightening (even for adults!)

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Show Me Your Smile! (Dora the Explorer) By Christine Ricci; Ages 3 to 7
Calm your child’s worries about their first visit with Dora’s step-by-step walk-through of a dental checkup. Dora explains every detail of her visit, from x-rays to the process of getting a filling.

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Loose Tooth by Lola M. Schaefer; Ages 3 to 5
The story follows a young boy who wakes up to find he has a loose tooth that just won’t come out! Prepare your child for the milestone of losing his first tooth with this lively and engaging book.

6 Dental Myths Busted

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Myth #1: The whiter my teeth, the healthier they are.
That’s not necessarily true. Healthy teeth come in a variety of shades of white and vary person to person. Though everyone loves a bright white smile, brushing, flossing and maintaining good dental habits will have more positive impact on the health of your teeth.

Myth #2: For stronger gums and teeth, use a hard brush.
There are a number of brushes available at store today: soft, medium, hard and more. Instead of worrying about the ideal hardness level, choose whichever brush you or your child like and focus on proper brushing technique. See our brushing tips.

Myth #3: I’ll know if I have a cavity.
You might, or you might not. By the time that you experience pain from a cavity, it might have spread and could be more difficult to treat. Regular dental check-ups will help your dentist find cavities before you feel any discomfort.

Myth #4: I don’t need to floss if I brush well.
A regular brush can’t reach and clean everywhere. In fact, if you skip flossing, you could be neglecting about 30% of your teeth’s surfaces and encouraging bacteria build-up in those hard-to-reach places. Flossing should be an essential part of your and your child’s daily dental care routine.

Myth #5: We don’t need to worry about my child’s baby teeth because they’ll eventually fall out.
Proper dental care should begin as soon as your child’s first tooth appears. Neglecting baby teeth can have an impact on bone development and cause permanent problems if they fall out earlier than expected. It’s never too early to start teaching your child the importance of healthy dental habits.

Myth #6: My child can brush his or her teeth on their own.
Although it’s great to empower your child, always supervise and assist them during brushing. Children sometimes lack the dexterity to reach all of their teeth. You also want to ensure your child uses just the right amount of toothpaste for their age. That’s a tiny dot for children under the age of 3 and a pea-sized amount for older kids.

Should My Child Get Braces?

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Remember when braces were considered “cool”? You could customize the band with fun colors and switch it up for a holiday theme. Some kids are still eager to get braces. Others are concerned about their appearance, reactions from their peers, and pain. No matter which camp your child is in, you are probably wondering if braces are in their future at all.

Braces are recommended for a variety of reasons, including crooked or overlapping teeth, crowding, and misaligned bites. Though you can get braces at any age, children have softer, more malleable bones that are easier to guide into the desired shape. Correcting the alignment early also means you can prevent further problems down the road that might require more extensive work to correct.

Though the answer isn’t always simple, the first step is to continue your tween’s regular check-ups. With each visit, Dr. Jacobs will examine the mouth to evaluate whether adult (permanent) teeth are coming in as expected and the jaw is developing properly. She will also look for any problems such as crowding, which typically become apparent around the age of 7.

If further evaluation is needed, you will be referred to an orthodontist. Being referred to an orthodontist doesn’t mean that your child will need braces. Rather, it’s an important next step and evaluation that we recommend for many tweens. Orthodontists are specially trained not only to look for existing problems but for those that might develop in the future. Knowing what to expect will also help you budget for further dental work.

If your child does require braces, be assured that they’ve come a long way since the 90s. Modern braces require fewer adjustment visits and less wear time. And the fun part is, they’re just as customizable as ever.

Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) in Children

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Bruxism (pronounced BRUCKS-ism) is the medical term for teeth grinding and clenching. When teeth grinding occurs at night, doctors refer to it as “nocturnal bruxism”. This condition affects more than 30 million people in the U.S. In fact, it is seen surprisingly often in children ages 11 and younger.

Because bruxism is often undetected until teeth damage has occurred, it is best to familiarize yourself with symptoms of this condition.

Signs and Symptoms
As you might guess, kids are typically unaware that they are grinding their teeth. You will usually be the first to hear and observe the grinding, gnashing and clenching, especially if these symptoms occur at night. Your child may wake up complaining about headaches, ear pain or a sore jaw. Bruxism can also cause sensitivity to hot and cold foods.

Causes
Experts don’t know the exact cause of bruxism. Sleep apnea, misalignment of upper and lower teeth and medication side effects may be partially to blame. Most cases of bruxism, however, can be linked to stress. The frequency of episodes often intensifies during stressful events that may cause your child anxiety, such as changing schools or studying for exams.

Treatment
If you suspect your child’s teeth grinding is causing pain or discomfort, call us to schedule an appointment or bring up your concerns at a regular dental check-up. During your visit, Dr. Jacobs will inspect your child’s mouth for any signs of bruxism damage such as chipped teeth or worn enamel. If the teeth grinding is worsened by stress, we may suggest relaxation exercises or calming bedtime rituals, such as taking a warm bath or playing soothing music. In severe cases, a nighttime mouth guard may be recommended.
Most kids will naturally outgrow teeth grinding by age 13. Managing stress and regular dental visits are the best way to diagnose and prevent bruxism.

Infants and Secondhand Smoke

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What parent doesn’t dream about seeing their baby grow into a healthy toddler with a cavity-free smile? As a central Georgia parent, it has been a joy to watch my children grow up with beautiful smiles. As a pediatric dentist, my goal has always been protecting and maintaining children’s smiles.

So it is with growing concern that I have read research studies that indicate cavity prevention in infants and children isn’t just about limiting juice and sweets, but also in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke.

Passive or secondhand smoke is already linked to a number of health hazards, from respiratory infections and childhood cancer to harmful cognitive and behavioral outcomes. But there is also growing evidence between exposure to secondhand smoke and cavities.

Research conducted in both the U.S. and Great Britain has found evidence of a link between exposure to secondhand smoke and increased risk of tooth decay. The studies found the rate of cavities in children was nearly double in smoking households, even after considering a number of variables including sex, race, dental visits, family income, and nutritional status.

For infants the effects of secondhand smoke are even more severe than in older children. Secondhand smoke exposure has been found to not only link infants to increase risk of cavities, but to actually cause tooth decay and cavities.

One study indicated that the bacteria responsible for cavity formation are acquired in infancy from the saliva of mothers via kissing! Further research by Dr. Rosie Rolden, director of the pediatric dental center at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, indicates that tobacco smoke may change the saliva and other biochemistry needed to clean and protect teeth.

As a parent you can protect your child by limiting your child’s passive smoke exposure. Let Dr. Jacob’s Pediatric Dentistry work with you to prevent many medical problems and promote your child’s dental health.

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