February is Children’s Dental Health Month, which makes it an ideal time to discuss how to help children develop a lifetime of health oral habits. At Caffaratti Dental Group, we can help everyone in your family achieve healthy smiles, and we firmly believe that as parents we have a responsibility to set our children on the path to great oral health.
A recent national survey by the American Ad Council found that 75 percent of parents admit their kids forget to brush frequently. The survey also reports that kids miss more than 51 million school hours every year due to dental-related illness. Oral health has a direct correlation to overall health, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. That makes encouraging children to brush for two minutes, twice a day a priority!
We know you have never-ending, often overwhelming jobs as moms, so we hope our answers to your specific questions about your kids’ oral health will help you love your kids’ teeth even more!
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends scheduling your child’s first dental visit as soon as the first tooth erupts, or by age 1. Don’t wait later than age 4 for a first visit.
Why so soon? The most important reason is to begin a thorough prevention program. Dental problems can start early, and the biggest concern for babies is Early Childhood Caries (formerly known as baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries). Once a child’s diet includes anything besides breast milk, erupted teeth ate at risk for decay. The earlier the dental visit, once teeth have erupted, the better the chance of preventing dental problems.
In a word, yes. Despite the fact that tooth decay is entirely preventable, it’s also the most common chronic disease in children – four times more common than childhood obesity and five times more common than asthma. More than 40 percent of children ages 2 to 11 have had a cavity in their baby teeth, and more than two-thirds of 16- to 19-year olds have had a cavity in their permanent teeth.
Fluoride is the best defense against tooth decay and can even repair tiny areas of decay before they become cavities. According to the CDC, fluoride can reduce tooth decay in baby teeth by 60 percent, and in adult teeth by 35 percent. Children who drink fluoridated water as their teeth grow will have stronger, more decay resistant teeth over their lifetime.
Ingesting fluoride, especially through your water supply, is the most effective way to receive its full benefits. If your water isn’t fluoridated, your dentist can prescribe it in a a gel, mouthwash or tablet. While fluoridated toothpaste is recommended when your child turns 2, toothpaste is only good for topical exposure and doesn’t work systemically, so it’s not enough on its own to prevent cavities.
Nearly 40 percent of children grind their teeth, particularly at night, so you aren’t alone. Just like with adults, the culprit is often anxiety, pain (like from an ear infection or teething), conges-tion
or misaligned teeth. Your baby or toddler (or even older child as permanent teeth come in) may also just be getting used to having new teeth in his mouth.
Kids can start the grinding habit as early as age 3, sometimes younger, and oftentimes they outgrow it, with no professional intervention, by age 6. Typically children do outgrow the habit before it causes any damage to their teeth, but discuss the habit with their dentist. We can check for signs of wear, cavities, fractures or misalignment.
For older children, we can fit a night guard to wear while sleeping, when teeth grinding is most likely to occur. This device helps prevent grinding and clenching, but usually isn’t necessary until your child has some permanent teeth.
Bad breath, or halitosis, is usually caused by plaque buildup. Children should brush for two minutes, twice a day (play their favorite song and encourage them to brush until the end!) and floss once a day. Teach your child how to brush his or her tongue as well. It’s genuinely difficult for most kids under the age of 8 to correctly manipulate a toothbrush in a manner that will clean their entire mouth, so continue to help them until then. Some good indicators that your child can manipulate a toothbrush correctly are the ability to tie shoes in a double knot, button a shirt or write in cursive. A brushing chart is a great tool to remind your young child to brush.
Bad breath can also be the result of mouth-breathing, which dries out the mouth and allows bacteria to grow. Children who suck their thumbs, fingers, or a blanket or toy are also more susceptible to dry mouth and bad breath. Encourage children to drink more water throughout the day to increase saliva production and protect against bad breath. When children have a cold, congestion or similar illness, post-nasal drip can contribute to bad breath.
When a child has bad breath that doesn’t respond to enhanced oral hygiene and isn’t the result of one of the behaviors mentioned above, a call to his or her pediatrician may be in order as it can be a symptom of things like ENT conditions or acid reflux.
How concerned should I be about my child’s thumb sucking habit?
Infants and toddlers sucking their thumb, fingers or a pacifier is perfectly normal. Most kids give up these habits by age 4, with no harm done to their teeth. For children who continue beyond age 4, it’s important to notify your dentist, so he or she can watch carefully for any problems as the teeth develop. In most children, there isn’t a need to worry about sucking hab-its until around age 6, when the permanent front teeth come in. Beyond age 6, these habits can be detrimental to the development of the teeth and jaw, resulting in crooked teeth, an incor-rect bite, speech problems or open-mouth breathing.
You can help kids break these habits early on by encouraging thumb and finger suckers to switch to a properly-designed pacifier that fits the shape of the mouth. Pacifiers are less likely to create the same developmental problems, because they distribute force over a greater area, and are likely to be discarded by the child at an earlier age. See some of our additional tips for helping thumb suckers kick the habit here.
When should I consult with an orthodontist?
The American Association of Orthodontics recommends a child first be seen by an orthodontist as early as age 7, or earlier if his or her dentist discovers a problem. Many progressive treat-ments are now available for patients 6 to 11 years old that provide significant benefits, espe-cially in jaw irregularities. These treatments may also prevent certain conditions from worsen-ing. Treating children during their growth stages can lead to results that may not be possible when the face and jaw bones have fully developed. Early diagnosis and treatment by an ortho-dontist can help guide facial growth and tooth eruption, preventing more serious problems from developing.
Wisdom teeth usually appear in the late teens or early twenties, but often problems develop that require wisdom teeth removal. When the jaw isn’t large enough to accommodate wisdom teeth, children and teens can experience impacted wisdom teeth that can grow sideways, only partially emerge or remain trapped beneath the gum or bone. As a general rule, wisdom teeth are removed in the late teens or early twenties because there is a greater chance that the teeth’s roots have not fully formed, and the bone surrounding the teeth is less dense, both of which can make wisdom teeth removal easier.
At Caffaratti Dental Group, we monitor your child’s regular x-rays to look for signs of wisdom teeth pain and problems. If we determine your child or teen requires wisdom teeth removal, we have the capability to take 3D images in our office and then determine what type of surgery and sedation will be best for your child.
Schedule appointments for your whole family today
We know your time is valuable, and with one phone call you can schedule appointments for all of your family members at Caffaratti Dental Group at the same time, saving you time in driving to various locations. Give us a call today at 775-358-1555. Mention you saw this post on Reno Moms Blog, and ask about our New Patient Special!