Category: Pediatric dentistry

sensory play … and toothpaste
sensory play … and toothpaste

Sensory play includes any activity that stimulates your young child’s senses: touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight and hearing. Sensory activities facilitate exploration and naturally encourage children to use scientific processes while they play, create, investigate and explore. (https://www.educationalplaycare.com/blog/sensory-play-important-development/)

“What,” you might ask, “does sensory play have to do with dental health?”

So much.

Dental health is all about keeping the teeth and mouth clean, right? It is, but have you ever thought about the fact that you can teach your child about taking care of her teeth by letting her make a mess? … by letting him get “dirty”?

You can.

Start out by finding a tray (something that emulates the tray used by the hygienist at the dental office to hold tools for cleaning and other work). Now, your next task is to add several items to the tray that have to do with the mouth and dental care.  Here are a few ideas of items to include on your sensory tray:

  • String or dental floss
  • Toothbrushes (new and in the package)
  • Toothpaste – at least two tubes
  • a small cup
  • A pick and dental mirror … sometimes you can find these at a Dollar store.
  • plastic teeth, if you can find them…but they’re not 100% a necessity
  • but, you’ll want *something* tooth-like, whether it’s a plastic doll or just little white rocks.  Use you’re imagination.  I thought of marshmallows as an option, but decided not to recommend them since, well, they are not exactly a prime choice for promoting dental health.
  • and … If you’ve never seen the Doctor Drill ‘n Fill dentist kit by Play-Doh, look it up and seriously consider purchasing one.

Don’t forget to involve your child in setting up her tray.  What makes sensory play sensory play is that the child gets the opportunity to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch the items associated with the activity.  If you do all of the work and don’t allow him to touch and manipulate the items, then the sensory part of the play is lost.

Talk about each item and what it is used for.  You might make this into a game by asking him, “What do you think this is for?” Don’t discourage any creative or “wrong” answers.

Consider different games you can play, such as your child closing their eyes, you placing an item in their hand, and then the child guessing what the item is.   Or, you can play a simple game of “What is it?”  where one of you chooses an item but does not tell the second player what the item is.  The second player subsequently asks a series of questions to try to figure out which item the first player has chosen.  “Is it long?”  “Is it soft?”  “Does it have bristles?”  “Is it white?”  etc.

Keep the fun up by beginning to manipulate the items … let the child open the toothbrushes and toothpaste.  Let them move things around.  Let them dump everything off of the tray.  Anything goes (except maybe throwing and eating).  The idea is to HAVE FUN PLAYING.

Eventually, the cap of the toothpaste is going to come off.  At this point, you may want to tell your child something like, “The toothpaste has to stay on the tray or we will have to put the cap back on.”  Depending on your child, this may result in a disappointed setting-down of the toothpaste on the tray, or it may result in a mischievous smile followed by toothpaste being squeezed out onto the try.  If your child is of the first aire, smile and say something like, “Can I try something?” and then proceed to squeeze some of the toothpaste out onto the tray.

Hold on for the fun ride.

Because that toothpaste is going to get squirted all over the tray.

Cheer your child on as they discover the fun of making a toothpaste mess.  Encourage them to get ALL of the toothpaste out of the tube.  This will require fine motor skills, something important for successful self-brushing and flossing of teeth.  Talk to them about this.  Encourage them to use the toothbrushes to play in the toothpaste.  Let her touch the toothpaste and experience all of the awesome gooey-ness of the substance.

See. Hear. Touch. Taste.

The taste can be a bit tricky here, since you certainly don’t want your child to eat toothpaste.  But, you can allow for a quick attempt at toothbrushing and use that opportunity to talk about the importance of not swallowing toothpaste. Or, you can allow for a fingertip taste.

What happens if your child fills the small cup with toothpaste?

I don’t know.  But don’t be surprised if this happens.

As your child explores the items and PLAYS with them, remind yourself:  This is play.  This is for fun. and try to keep from stopping the creativity. Try, as much as possible, to keep from directing it, too.  Sometimes, you may have to give direction or a gentle nudge, but one of the glories of sensory play is that it is child-driven.  You may find that your child will ask questions like, “Can I touch the toothpaste?”

At some point, it will be clean-up time.  Involve your child in this part of the activity.  Have fun trying to wash all of that toothpaste off of her hands AND all of the other items that may have been coated in it.  Ask her if she thinks that squeezing out all of the toothpaste that’s in the bathroom is a good idea.  Gently but firmly let her know that this was a special time of getting to play with toothpaste and that she is free to ask you to do the activity again some day, but that if she chooses to use the bathroom toothpaste in this manner, then it is problematic. (How you would deal with this will depend on your particular parenting style.)

Pack away all of the dental play supplies into a bag when they’re clean and dry, then make a trip to the bathroom and brush your teeth together.

Congratulations! You have just successfully integrated sensory play into your day.
Don’t be afraid…
Don’t be afraid…

Oral health. It’s important. Going to the dentist for preventative and maintenance care is a key factor in ensuring that your child has great oral health. Maybe you, yourself, fear going to the dentist. Or, maybe your best friend has told you stories about how her child fears going to the dentist and what an ordeal it is to get her teeth cleaned.

What can you do to decrease your child’s fears and anxieties about going to the dentist?

  • Do NOT tell them that it is scary. Instead, exude a sense of excitement about how cool it is to go to the dentist.
  • Start taking your child to the dentist early. If you child grows up going to the dentist regularly, then she is less likely to equate this activity as something to fear or be anxious about.  Instead, you can set out your semi-annual visits as a special “date” and a fun event that happens regularly.
  • Before you go to the dentist, educate your child about what to expect. Sure, going to the dentist can seem like a trip to a foreign country with all of the peculiar goings-on in the office.  Let your child know what to expect.  You can also read books about going to the dentist, watch videos on the internet (make sure to preview first!), and make-believe “Going to the Dentist.”
  • Give them the experience as an observer. Part of educating your child is to lead by example.  Schedule a dental appointment for yourself prior to when your child’s appointment will be and take your child with you.  Now, if you are one of the approximately 15% of adults who fear going to the dentist, you will have to exercise your best self-control and make use of your best acting abilities to exude excitement and calm about going!
  • Take the time to find a good pediatric dentist. Especially for small children, these offices are an excellent choice because they will often use smaller instruments, give better treasure chest rewards after the appointment, and provide a child friendly environment.
  • During the exam, stay with your child and remain calm and positive and curious. This behavior will calm and reassure your child.
  • Finally, remind your child that this is something that everyone does (or should do) and that it will help them to be healthy and strong.

It’s true, going to the dentist can be stressful, especially when there are procedures to be completed.  But with encouragement and a positive attitude, your child can and will enjoy this part of their healthcare.

 

How to Care for your Child’s Toothbrush (and your own!)
How to Care for your Child’s Toothbrush (and your own!)

Today’s blog is short and sweet, but oh-so-important.

Oral hygiene is of paramount importance. Brushing twice a day, flossing, going to the dentist.

But so often, we neglect that crucial component of oral hygiene:  The Toothbrush.

To care properly for your child’s toothbrush:

  • Ensure that it is THOROUGHLY RINSED after each use. Also, encourage your child to shake off the excess water and allow the toothbrush to fully dry between uses.  These practices reduce the growth of bacteria on the brush.
  • STORE the toothbrush in an UPRIGHT position and without touching another brush. Doing this avoids spreading germs and encourage complete drying.
  • Use mouthwash to SANITIZE your child’s toothbrush overnight (or dip it into boiling water for a few seconds) WHEN YOUR CHILD IS ILL.
  • This may seem like a silly recommendation, but its worth mentioning: DON’T SHARE toothbrushes.
  • REPLACE the toothbrush no more than every 3 months. If the bristles are fraying, it’s time.

Brushing is much more effective in helping your child’s teeth to be healthy when the toothbrush is “healthy,” too.

Easter Ideas for Healthy Teeth
Easter Ideas for Healthy Teeth

Easter is the biggest holiday of the spring with so many children eager to dive into the fun. However with all the excitement and tradition of Easter, there is the downside of the amount of candy consumed. Easter is definitely a holiday that has morphed into a day of sugar and treats. As a parent, this can be a bit worrisome if you’re concerned for your children’s dental health. There are some good tricks though that can still give your kids fun surprises but cut down on the amount of sugar consumed.

Sugar-free gums which use zylitol or any other alcohol sugar, are excellent alternatives to still give your children something sweet to chew on but without the high sugar content. Alcohol sugars don’t cling to the teeth as regular sugars do and are not loved by the bacteria in the mouth.

Stickers are also always a favorite with kids. Its easy to find stickers with your child’s favorite Disney character or superhero that they will easily love just as much or even more than a piece of hubba bubba.

Trailmix with yummy nuts and some semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips will significantly cut down on the amount of sugar found in a regular amount of m&ms but is still a yummy treat!

Play dough is a super fun alternative as well. I don’t think there is a child out there who doesn’t like play dough! Pick dough in your child’s favorite color and they will be entertained for a much longer time than if you gave them jelly beans.

Baking some treats with half the sugar or alternative ingredients is always a healthier option than anything you would buy at the store. Baking with date sugar, coconut sugar or maple sugar can be some good alternatives that are still sweet but not hard on the teeth like cane sugar!

 

  • Creating coupons is always a fun way to make Easter baskets more interactive. Having a coupon for a trip to the movies, a local arcade, a theme park or just a fun outing with mom and dad can be a great idea. Kids love going on adventures more than getting piles of sugar to eat.

 

Mostly all kids love getting and eating candy. As a parent it can be very easy to want to give into these wishes but I think most kids would agree that is given some of these fun Easter basket alternatives, they would choose them any day over a bag of candy!

 

Soothing Teething Babies
Soothing Teething Babies

Teething or the development of baby teeth is something every child has to go through during their early years of life. It is a process, which normally causes discomfort and restlessness and can therefore be an exhausting period for the child and the parents.

Teething typically begins anywhere from 3 months to one year when the primary teeth are finding their way to the gums surface. The soreness at this time is most often due to the swelling of the gums as the teeth begin to move. This discomfort can leave the child fussy and unsettled. Every baby is going to be different during this time however, here are some remedies, which will hopefully help, ease the process!

  1. A clean finger -moving over the surface of the gums can relieve some of the teething pain.
  2. A damp washcloth put in the fridge and then offered to your baby to chew on can offer some cool relief.
  3. Breastfeeding can be a simple and soothing option to help distract your baby and relieve some of the pain.
  4. There are also certain pain relievers or Tylenol  you can ask your doctor to recommend.
  5. Amber Teething Necklaces-are a trending holistic solution with the belief that the heat from your child’s skin warms the amber beads which then releases oils containing succinic acid which are then absorbed into the blood. Succinic acid is a natural pain-relieving agent.
  6. Mesh Teethers-can also be a good solution by placing frozen fruit inside and giving the baby something cold but yummy to chew on.

These remedies are not a solution to everyone’s teething baby problems. However, hopefully they offer some temporary relief or more sleep filled nights.

 

Tips for the Kids Who Don’t Like Brushing
Tips for the Kids Who Don’t Like Brushing

Easing into a tooth-brushing routine can often be a difficult process with young children. The magic of being a “big kid who brushes their teeth” doesn’t last for very long, eventually making the repetitive routine of teeth brushing a bit painful.

There are always some tips and tricks however, which can make this adjustment process much simpler!

  • Let your kids practice by letting them brush your teeth. This can be a promising solution because it allows them to feel like you are in this process with them and not just the tooth-brushing dictator.
  • A reward system can also be effective. Add stickers to a calendar or quarters to a jar or maybe a fun game before bed. This helps give the child incentive and makes them feel like they are doing something right by brushing their teeth. (Just don’t make it candy or chocolate on a daily basis, as this is semi-counter intuitive to purpose of brushing teeth!
  • Changing toothpaste can also be effective by adding a new flavor and helping it feel like a new experience. Sometimes even making toothpaste optional at first, can make the initial experience a bit less dramatic.
  • Giving independence. Allowing your child to put on his or her own toothpaste and do a lot of the brushing themselves as well as rinse out their own mouth can help them feel responsible and in control.
  • Brushing to music makes tooth brushing into more of a party or game, which can help break up the monotony of the routine.
  • Use an Analog timer. These timers are a fun visual for children and can help give them a 3D image to watch as well as know how long they need to brush.

Brushing teeth is never an easy task at the beginning, but hopefully these six simple tips help you better negotiate with your reluctant brushers!

Extractions: When Are They Necessary?
Extractions: When Are They Necessary?

Tooth pulling or extraction is a common topic of discussion within the dental community. No one wants to voluntarily get a tooth pulled. Teeth were intended by the body to last a lifetime of wear and tear, however there a multiple reasons as to why tooth extraction should be or must be done.

Space is needed!

The mouth is only so big. Your skull determines that. However, the relationship between the size of the mouth, the dental arch and the size of the teeth sometimes do not coexist in harmony. Crowding in the mouth can be caused by any of the aforementioned factors and can lead to many harmful side effects, such as bite alignment, infection, smile aesthetic or just overall discomfort.

There are some instances where space could be made by braces or other teeth correcting techniques, however the time required to complete the job is too drastic and may jeopardize tooth and gum health. Thus pulling the tooth is the wiser and safer option.

Bite Correction

Having a Bite, which is not properly aligned (malocclusion), though seemingly harmless, can actually affect the health of the mouth greatly. If the mouth is too crowded, the upper and lower teeth may not be properly aligned. This is an issue because it can cause irregular wear on particular teeth, jaw discomfort when chewing or frequent biting of the cheeks and tongue. All of which have a negative effect on the overall health of the mouth and teeth.

Profile and Smile

An out of place tooth can negatively affect the profile and smile which has an overall impact on your dental hygiene. If the mouth is overcrowded or there is a tooth with strange alignment or placement, the profile of the teeth will be affected. This tooth can be a danger to the hygiene of the mouth if it is hard to reach when cleaning or very easily traps debris throughout the day.

Though the extraction of teeth is always an undesired procedure, the life-long positive effects of having a mouth with space, a bite with perfect alignment and a healthy profile and smile are well worth it!

Thumb-sucking, Pacifiers, and How They Can Affect Your Child’s Teeth
Thumb-sucking, Pacifiers, and How They Can Affect Your Child’s Teeth

Thumb sucking and pacifiers are probably the bane of any parent’s existence at one time or another. These habits, though incredibly useful to soothe a fussy baby or toddler eventually become a worry for most parents concerned about their child’s dental health. As child of 1-2 years old, these coping skills shouldn’t be worried about too greatly. However, when the ages of 3 or 4 are reached and the habit is still in full swing, some harm may be done to development of the child’s teeth, jaw and mouth. The sucking motion eventually narrows the upper jaw due to pressure being applied to the sides and soft palate often resulting in the need for braces or can potentially cause speech problems.

Parents are always wondering what are some tricks to help stop a child who sucks his thumb or takes a pacifier so here are a couple tips and tricks for both:

Thumb sucking:

  1. Try to limit the time your child is sucking their thumb to only bedtime or naptime. This helps give them the day time hours where they will eventually learn thumb sucking is only for bedtime.
  2. Help your child understand that when they’re ready to stop sucking their thumb, you will be there to support them. This can really help empower a child to stop the habit.
  3. Come up with creative methods to help the child understand that they are growing every day and eventually won’t need to suck their thumb anymore.

 

Pacifier use:

  1. Taking the pacifier away earlier is always better. If you notice that your baby is not actively sucking on their pacifier or needing it too much as night, feel free to just take it away. Limiting their access will avoid difficult to break habit forming later on.
  2. Going cold turkey can also be an option. Many parents designate a special day, such as a birthday or vacation, where they tell the child before hand that they won’t have the pacifier after that. Don’t steal it away without any thought, but help the child understand the scenario then stick to your plan.
  3. Inventing a “binky fairy” or someone the pacifier needs to be given to is another excellent way. It can give your child a fun experience if they’re giving it away in exchange for a dollar, Christmas gifts or even to a new baby. It also helps explain where the pacifier went and why. When they may ask about it later on, they will remember the story or event and won’t feel surprised or confused.

All of these different methods have been used by countless parents countless times. Weaning your child off of a habit such as thumb sucking or a pacifier can be a lengthy process or a short one. Every child is different. Some methods will work for one and completely not work for another. Just pick a plan as the parents, discuss it with the child and then stick to the plan so no one gets caught off guard or confused.

Dry Mouth: What It Is & How it Can Affect Your Teeth
Dry Mouth: What It Is & How it Can Affect Your Teeth

Dry mouth is an oral condition that is fairly self-explanatory: it is where there is not enough saliva production inside the mouth.

Saliva adds a very important element to virtually every function your mouth needs to do. When a bite of food enters the mouth, alongside chewing with teeth there are enzymes in spit that help begin breaking down food before it even enters the stomach. This aids in not only swallowing properly but digestion as well.

The saliva glands continue producing day and night to help wash away leftover debris between meals. This helps keep teeth clean and is our body’s natural, initial defense against cavities. Build-up from the bacteria in saliva is what causes plaque, which is why we have to brush our teeth manually at least once a day. But if we didn’t have saliva, we would have to brush and wash away debris much more frequently!

Not only is saliva helpful with eating and preserving teeth, but it keeps the mouth well lubricated for speaking, and prevents the tongue and gums from drying out and cracking. It is crucial that the tongue always stays wet – if it doesn’t, taste buds don’t work properly! Yes – we actually could not taste food very well without spit!

Amazingly enough, our body actually produces less saliva when we sleep at night. If you sleep with your mouth open, you might notice that you will drool a little bit at night. But if you’ve ever woken up with cotton mouth, it’s because not only did leftover moisture leave the mouth (drool) but the production of saliva reduces significantly.

There are a couple ways that we can experience temporary dry mouth: dehydration, stress, or sleeping with your mouth open. But when dry mouth persists, it is known as a clinical condition called xerostomia (zehr-ehs-toh-mee-ah), which is much more serious.

Xerostomia is caused primarily by certain medications. There are over 500 prescription and over-the-counter drugs that can affect fluid regulation in the body, such as allergy medicines (antihistamines). It can also be caused by antidepressants, and chemotherapy drugs.

The common misconception is that mostly elderly people get dry mouth, which simply isn’t true. Many individuals who take the above medications are susceptible; and cancer, allergies, and mood disorders can appear at any age.

Radiation treatments to the head and neck (for cancer found in these areas) can also cause permanent damage to the glands. Other diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, cystic fibrosis, and AIDS can also have dry mouth as an added ailment.

If you think you or your child may have dry mouth, here are some steps you can take:

  • If you or your child take a regular medication(s), tell your doctor about the dryness you are experiencing and see if dry mouth is one of the side effects.
  • Take regular sips of fluid. It is imperative that your mouth continually stay moist and wash away food debris throughout the day. Water is always best.
  • Sleep with a humidifier in the room. This can be really soothing, especially if you are prone to sleeping with your mouth open.
  • Don’t smoke. This will definitely aggravate the dryness!
  • Practice good oral hygiene. Remember when we said that if we didn’t have saliva, we’d have to brush more frequently?! That’s because with dry mouth there lacks a natural way for food and bacteria to be consistently flushed out.
  • Don’t forget to see your dentist twice a year. This is just a good practice, whether you have dry mouth or not!
Can Dental X-Rays Be Harmful?
Can Dental X-Rays Be Harmful?

As a parent, there is a natural concern or even objection to your child having x-rays on their teeth. Can’t radiation be extremely harmful to children? Is it even necessary?

All dental experts agree: No to the first question, yes to the second. The first objection is perhaps the most common, and the most obvious concern. Children get their first tooth often before their first birthday. Isn’t it dangerous to expose an infant to radiation?

Here are the facts. In comparison to other ways bones and other internal organs are examined, x-rays are the most comfortable and fastest way to examine anything inside the body – and most importantly, identify a particular issue if there is one.

The whole process to capture the x-ray is only a few seconds and cannot be felt at all. Dental experts agree that there can be far more damage in the avoidance of x-rays. This is because they can detect issues and potential issues regular dental instruments can not, and can allow the dentist to identify cavities, view emerging adult or wisdom teeth, catch early decay, and even small fractures in the case of an injury.

Without the use of x-rays, the detection, prevention, and resolution of these issues would be nearly non-existent – and ultimately, more detrimental – costing you more money and your child more pain in the long-run. Cavities and decay especially can occur between teeth or in places not visible by a regular probe. In the case of a damaged root or a tooth that is positioned improperly under the surface of the gums, this is impossible to identify and treat without x-rays.

If this quick and painless process has any discomfort whatsoever, it’s the measures taken to ensure your child is positioned properly for the brief moment is takes to capture the x-rays. The dentist or pediatric dentist will most likely explain to your child that they are going to take a picture of their teeth and in order to capture this they have to sit very, very still. This way, the child is not frightened and is more inclined to move as little as possible for the few seconds the machine is obtaining the images.

These examinations only take place usually once a year (every other semi-annual appointment) which means the amount of x-rays passing through are incredibly spread out. Not only that, your child will wear a weighted lead vest during this process to protect the rest of their body. Truly, however, the vest is very strictly precautionary.

If you have any further concerns about x-rays, do not hesitate to talk to your child’s dentist at their next appointment. Chances are they will reassure you that x-rays are risk-free and necessary to monitor a growing smile closely and effectively.