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The Importance of Oral Health Care for your Child

February 13th, 2020

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, so it’s a great time for our team to talk about the importance of getting proper oral health care for your children. Oral health has been closely tied to the overall health of our entire body, so making sure that our children have the best oral health care can not only ensure that they have great smiles, but they are protected from the negative effects of poor oral health as well.

Special Care for Children’s Teeth

Oral health care should begin with the very first tooth that grows in your baby’s mouth. Even though these teeth will fall out within a few years, baby teeth hold a space for your child’s permanent ones, and it’s important that your child has a healthy mouth when those permanent teeth arrive. Without proper care, even baby teeth can decay and cause a host of problems, including:

  • Painful teeth and gums
  • Difficulty chewing, eating, and sleeping
  • Gum disease and inflammation
  • Embarrassment when talking and smiling

Develop Good Oral Health Habits Early

As a parent, you can teach your child the right way to care for teeth and make sure he or she visits us regularly for cleanings and checkups. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, almost 50 percent of children under 12 have some form of tooth decay, and it is one of the most common childhood diseases. Alarmingly, a report by the National Institutes of Health, Oral Health in America, found that almost six out of ten children have cavities or other tooth decay (also called “caries”).

There are many things you can do to help your child maintain a healthy mouth with strong teeth and gums.

  • Brush your children’s teeth twice a day when they are babies, then teach them to do it on their own when they get older.
  • Be sure your child gets enough fluoride—you can find out whether it is already in your drinking water, and provide supplements if it is not. If you are unsure how to get more fluoride, give our office a call to discuss. In addition, make sure your child is brushing with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Feed your child a healthy diet, high in fruits and vegetables and low in added sugars. We especially recommend you avoid sugary drinks.
  • Bring your child to our office for regular dental checkups and cleanings. Coming in every six months is recommended.

Helping children develop healthy habits to care for teeth while they are young is important. These habits can set the stage for good oral health care throughout their entire life. They can avoid many of the problems that result from poor oral health, including gum disease, cavities, and tooth decay. Start encouraging those habits now during National Children’s Dental Health Month, and help your children reap the benefits through the rest of their lives.

Treatment and Diagnosis for Your Child’s Teeth Grinding

January 22nd, 2020

The habit of grinding teeth can be both painful and harmful for your children. If you discover that they are frequently grinding their teeth—a condition called bruxism—here is some helpful information on the problem, and how you can find help to put a halt to it.

How to Know if Your Child is Grinding

Sometimes, identifying a child that grinds teeth is as simple as checking in while he or she is asleep. At other times, you may not be able to readily identify the grinding problem. A few of the most common symptoms associated with bruxism include:

  • Frequent teeth grinding or clenching of the jaw (in some cases it may be more subtle; in others it may be loud enough that you can hear it)
  • Teeth that are worn down
  • Complaints of sensitive teeth
  • Pain or tightness in the jaw muscles, or an earache or other jaw pain
  • Frequent unexplained headaches

In most cases, if your children are grinding their teeth, they will do it at night. If the teeth grinding is a result of excessive amounts of stress, it may also happen during the daytime. Some of the most common reasons children grind their teeth involve:

  • Improper alignment of top and bottom teeth
  • As a response to pain, especially for tooth, jaw, or gum pain
  • Excessive stress, tension, or anger

Treatment Options for Bruxism

In many cases, children will grow out of the teeth grinding as their permanent teeth develop, replacing poorly aligned or painful baby teeth. If your child grinds his or her teeth more frequently, or you begin to notice significant damage, it may be more serious and need to be addressed before it causes more permanent pain or problems.

In some cases, our team may recommend that your child wears a protective mouthguard to prevent grinding, or work with a therapist or other specialist to develop awareness of the grinding. If the grinding is caused by stress or anxiety, it may be helpful for you to sit down and talk to your child each day about how she is feeling, and why, to help her work through the stress.

Teeth grinding can be a painful, problematic condition for some children. However, a combination of parental vigilance and frequent visits for regular checkups at our office can help. If you are concerned that your child may be grinding his or her teeth, and it could cause permanent damage before the child grows out of it, come talk to us about strategies for dealing with bruxism, and ways for you to help your child.

Can children be at risk for developing periodontal disease?

January 10th, 2020

Dr. Teeters and our team hear this question a lot. While many people believe periodontal disease is an adult problem, studies have indicated that periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, as well as other serious infections such as gingivitis and periodontitis, are prevalent among kids and adolescents. First, let’s identify the differences between gingivitis, periodontitis, and periodontal disease.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is a type of periodontal disease in which only your child’s gums are affected. Characterized by swollen and red gums that bleed easily, gingivitis causes an inflammation of the gums, and is the first stage and mildest form of periodontal disease. The good news is that gingivitis is often reversible. Treatment for gingivitis includes having your child come in for a professional teeth cleaning. It also includes daily brushing, which will help eliminate plaque from the surfaces of your child’s teeth. Your child should also get in the habit of flossing daily to remove plaque and food particles wedged in the crevices between his or her teeth.

Periodontitis

If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, the advanced stage of gum disease that can not only damage your child’s gum tissue, but also destroy the underlying bone which supports the teeth. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed. In some cases, the bacteria from the ensuing infection may also be distributed to other areas of the body via the bloodstream.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection of the gums, periodontal ligament, and bone that surround and support your child’s teeth. Periodontal disease causes gums to become red, swollen, and tender, and can even cause the gums to recede (pull away) from the teeth. If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss.

Having persistent at-home oral care regimen is a critical step in your child’s fight against periodontal disease. But sometimes brushing and flossing are simply not enough. Having your child’s teeth cleaned twice a year, or as recommended, is crucial.

Early diagnosis of gingivitis, periodontitis, and periodontal disease can give you and your child peace of mind. If you are concerned your child is suffering from gum disease, we recommend that you give us a call at our office. We look forward to working with you and giving your child a smile to last a lifetime!

Infant Teething Remedies: What Might Help—And What to Avoid

December 22nd, 2019

Some lucky babies wake one morning displaying a brand new tooth to the complete surprise of their unsuspecting parents! But your happy baby is irritable and drooling. Or your hearty eater doesn’t feel like finishing her food. Perhaps she finds it hard to go to sleep when she’s usually nodded off before you finish the first lullaby. A small number of children suffer little or no discomfort teething, but for the majority of babies who do, here are some helpful ways to ease their teething pain.

  • Massage--Rubbing your baby’s gums with a clean finger or piece of gauze—gentle pressure is all you need. And do be careful of your fingers once those teeth start coming in!
  • Chewing—there are many colorful and easy to grasp teething toys available, including BPA-free models.
  • Cool Relief—Cool a solid teether in the refrigerator to help ease discomfort. Placing a teething ring in the freezer is not recommended, as extreme cold can be damaging to little mouths and gums.
  • Comfort Food—If your baby is eating solid foods, try cold applesauce or other purees.
  • Skin Care—Drooling is often part of the teething process, but try to keep your child’s face free from rash and chaffing by wiping with a clean cloth when necessary.

And while you are trying to keep your baby comfortable, also be sure to keep her safe!

  • Know what your baby is putting into her mouth. All teething items should be non-toxic and free of harmful chemicals. Teethers filled with fluids may break or leak, so a solid toy is best.
  • Make teething items size-appropriate. Avoid anything small or breakable that might present a choking hazard.
  • Over-the-counter gels and liquids containing benzocaine, meant to reduce pain in the gums and mouth, may on rare occasion lead to serious health conditions in small children. Always check with Dr. Teeters or your pediatrician before buying an over-the-counter teething medication for your baby.

For many babies, teething can be a long and sometimes difficult process. If there is anything we can do to help you and your baby in this journey, please give our office a call.

Use Pediatric Dentists to Treat Children

December 10th, 2019

There are many different types of dental specialties out there, so how do you know when you should see a general dentist (your regular dentist), and when you should seek the help of a dentist with specialized training? This article covers the basic differences between a pediatric dentist and a family or general dentist, and why it may be beneficial to find a specialized doctor to work with your children’s teeth.

What is a pediatric dentist?

All dentists, regardless of which specialty they practice, attend a four-year dental school for either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. Once they have completed the initial degree program, some dentists choose to proceed to additional training in an area of dental specialty. Pediatric dentistry is one of those specialties.

A pediatric dentist will study the development of teeth from infancy through the teen years. Babies, toddlers, school-age children, and teenagers experience different growth phases and have different needs for their oral health care from adults. A dentist with post-graduate training in this specialty can often provide a more comprehensive approach to treatment to meet those needs.

Specialized Needs Pediatric Dentists Can Address

Starting with the first teeth that grow in your child’s mouth (usually around six months of age), you need to begin caring for your child’s teeth. However, it’s not as simple as just doing the same things you do for your adult teeth, because children have specific needs and may have concerns and issues that you do not face for your oral health care as an adult.

There are several concerns unique to younger dental patients. Beginning with babies, parents need to be aware of the specific oral care required for children. For example, babies who drink from bottles can develop baby bottle tooth decay if parents do not properly clean their teeth. Young children may develop a habit of sucking their thumb, which can contribute to poor oral hygiene. Children who have trouble with teeth grinding may need specialized care. And children have specific dietary needs that serve their need to develop strong teeth and gums.

All these concerns can be addressed by a pediatric dentist with specialized knowledge of childhood oral health and teeth development. General dentists often know some of this information, but without the specialized training they may not be able to provide the care that is geared toward the needs of your children. In addition, pediatric dentists will often have a practice that is built entirely with children in mind, with décor, staff, and other elements that can help put children at ease when it’s time to visit the dentist.

If you have young children, consider our pediatric dentistry office. At Polar Pediatric Dentistry, our specialized care for young patients features a caregiver with the knowledge and training to provide your children with the best possible care.

Gum Disease in Children

November 27th, 2019

When it comes to gum disease and your child, it’s a good news/bad news situation. The very good news is that children rarely suffer from advanced gum disease, or periodontitis. The not-so-good news? Early gum disease, called gingivitis, is unfortunately an all-too-common childhood problem.

What does gingivitis look like in children?

Childhood gingivitis has the same causes and symptoms as the adult version. Healthy gums are firm and pink. When bacteria and plaque accumulate on the teeth, your child’s gums become irritated and inflamed. Call our Phoenix, AZ office right away if you notice any of these symptoms of gingivitis: bleeding gums, puffiness, redness, gum tissue receding from the teeth, or bad breath even after brushing.

How to Prevent Gingivitis

The most common cause of gingivitis is poor dental care. Creating a regular dental routine is the best way to prevent gingivitis from ever developing! Brushing and flossing with your child for two minutes twice a day from the very beginning helps make healthy cleaning a lifelong habit. Care should be taken to gently brush teeth at the gum line to make sure plaque doesn’t get a chance to build up there and cause gum irritation. And when your child comes in for regular cleanings, we can be sure that any plaque that might remain on the teeth is removed.

Two additional notes: as your child approaches adolescence, hormone fluctuations can make gums more sensitive and easily irritated. This is a time to really emphasize careful and gentle brushing and flossing. Also, some medical conditions may make children more pre-disposed to gum problems, so be sure to make us aware of your child’s medical history.

Uncommon Gum Diseases

While gingivitis is very preventable with proper dental hygiene, there are some rare gum conditions that can occur around the time of puberty that are quite different from gingivitis. Aggressive Periodontitis can cause severe bone loss around the first molars and incisors, even without any kind of plaque build-up, and Generalized Aggressive Periodontitis leads to inflammation of the gums, heavy plaque, and, eventually, loose teeth. Again, these conditions are rare, but if you have a family history of these diseases, let us know. Checkups and cleanings are a great way to catch any potential gum problems, so be sure to bring your child in for regular visits.

Almost all childhood gingivitis is preventable. With careful brushing and flossing at home, and visiting us regularly for checkups and cleanings, your child can enjoy healthy gums and teeth now and learn habits that will keep those gums and teeth healthy for a lifetime. And that is a good news/great news situation!

Snacks for Healthy Teeth

November 13th, 2019

Concerned parents often ask about which kinds of snacks are best for a child's teeth. While most know that candy isn't always the best choice, many parents are confused about which kinds of after-school snacks can actually be beneficial for teeth. Left to their own devices, children might pick the sugary snack that comes in colorful packaging. There are, however, choices that are much better for your child's teeth.

Go Natural

The foods that are best for your children's teeth are also the best for their overall health. Choosing whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, is always the best option for snacks. Try sticks of celery and let your kids dip it into all-natural peanut butter, or a juicy and crunchy apple cut into wedges.

Lean Proteins

Lean protein, such as chicken breast, fish, turkey, and lean cuts of pork also make good snacking options. For the best overall health, avoid giving your child a lot of lunch meats, because such products are often higher in sodium. However, these proteins are also low in sugar, which is always a preferable choice when it comes to teeth.

Avoid Packaged Foods

Sugars are unhealthy partly because they stick more readily to the surface of the teeth. Even foods that appear to be healthy, such as many brands of granola bars, can in fact be loaded with hidden sugars. Sugar can also be found in higher concentrations in dried fruit, honey, and syrups. The rule is that if a foodstuff has been altered in any way from its original state then there are perhaps better choices.

Beverages

Drinks are another murky area. Parents often presume that fruit juices are an acceptable beverage when in reality many of them are loaded with excessive sugar as well. The best beverages for your child's teeth are water and low-fat milk. Milk has the added benefit of containing calcium, which is highly beneficial for the bone structure that supports the teeth.

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but it is also a great snack to keep teeth healthy. The next time your children are looking for an after-school snack, guide them toward healthier, low-sugar options that are beneficial to their overall health and their teeth.

How to Make Brushing Fun

October 27th, 2019

Let’s call it the cranky phase. Let’s call it the “Mom, I don’t want to” stage. When kids are little, getting them to brush can be a challenge. They bite the toothbrush and eat the toothpaste. They make faces in the bathroom mirror, brush for two seconds, and run away. When it’s time to brush, some kids even resort to kicking and screaming, which makes the bedtime chore a lot like, well, pulling teeth.

As a parent, you know the importance of good oral hygiene, so when the dreaded “brushing hour” arrives, if you want to prevent your child from turning into an angry pumpkin, you better have a few tricks up your sleeve to make brushing fun.

Game time

Kids love games, so it’s time to get creative and turn tooth brushing into game time. Whether you’re playing a hide and seek, peek-a-boo game with your child as he or she brushes, or singing the ABC’s as your child brushes for two minutes, Dr. Teeters and our team recommend turning the process into play. Games are based on a reward system, right? If your child does a good job, put a sticker on the calendar. Tell your son or daughter that five stickers will earn a treat at the end of the week.

Fun accessories

A toothbrush that lights up and blinks when you turn it on is more fun than a traditional toothbrush from the dentist’s office. The same is true of a toothbrush that’s shaped like your child’s favorite animal or features a cartoon character. A fun accessory like a Smurfs or Angry Birds toothbrush might make all the difference. A timer is another fun accessory. Give your child the special responsibility of setting it for two minutes before brushing.

The Great Toothpaste Experiment

Kids can be notoriously picky eaters, so it stands to reason that they would be picky about their toothpaste flavors too. Little Johnny might like strawberry, whereas Suzie prefers mango. Spend a night experimenting with different flavors (yes, it’s another game). Say something like, “It’s just like sampling different flavors of ice cream, right kids?”

Eventually, your child will develop the healthy habit of brushing on a regular basis, and think nothing of the time it takes to clean his or her teeth. Just remember to make it fun, and it can be a great experience for you both!

To learn more about making brushing fun for your little one, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Teeters, please give us a call at our office!

Five Tips to Help Kids Overcome Their Fears of the Dentist

October 10th, 2019

Is your child nervous about visiting the dentist? Today, we put together some tips to help ensure your little one relaxes before his or her next dental checkup!

  1. Start early. The earlier your child visits our office, the better. This will provide your child with a familiarity and ensure that he or she is comfortable with our team, office, and surroundings, whether it’s for a preventive visit or an emergency. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that your child first visit the dentist at age one or when the first tooth is visible.
  2. Choose your words wisely. When preparing for a visit, go easy on the details. Over-explaining and adding more information about treatment such as a filling will lead to more questions as well as add unnecessary alarm. Remember to keep a positive attitude!
  3. Bring a distraction to your child’s appointment. Bringing along music is a great idea. Just plug in those earphones, have your child close his or her eyes, and get lost in the tunes. Listening to music can also be a pain killer.
  4. Consider a “pretend visit.” Before your child’s appointment, try role playing with him or her—you be the doctor and your child is the patient. All you'll need is a toothbrush. The key is getting your child familiar with the routine so that he or she is more relaxed once it’s time for the real visit!
  5. Stress the importance of good oral health. Instill in your child that visiting the dentist is a necessity, not a choice, and that visiting the dentist will lead to a lifetime of smiles.

We hope this helps! For more on dental anxieties, ask us during your next visit! Or, ask us on Facebook!

Losing a Baby Tooth Prematurely

August 19th, 2019

Losing a baby tooth is often an exciting event in a child’s life. It’s a sign your child is growing up, and might even bring a surprise from the Tooth Fairy (or other generous party). But sometimes, a baby tooth is lost due to injury or accident. Don’t panic, but do call our office as soon as possible.

If Your Child Loses a Tooth

It is important to see your child quickly when a baby tooth is lost through injury. The underlying adult tooth might be affected as well, so it’s always best to come in for an examination of the injured area. The American Dental Association recommends that you find the lost tooth, keep it moist, and bring it with you to the office. Call us immediately, and we will let you know the best way to treat your child and deal with the lost tooth.

Baby Teeth Are Important

There are several important reasons to look after your child’s first teeth. Baby teeth not only help with speech and jaw development, but they serve as space holders for permanent teeth. If a primary tooth is lost too early, a permanent tooth might “drift” into the empty space and cause crowding or crookedness.

Space Maintainer

A space maintainer is an appliance that does exactly that—keeps the lost baby tooth’s space free so that the correct permanent tooth will erupt in the proper position. The need for a space maintainer depends on several factors, including your child’s age when the baby tooth is lost and which tooth or teeth are involved. We will be happy to address any concerns you might have about whether or not a space maintainer is needed.

It is important to remember that there are solutions if the Tooth Fairy arrives at your house unexpectedly. Keep calm, call our office, and reassure your child that his or her smile is still beautiful!

Tips for Teaching Your Toddler to Brush Their Teeth

July 29th, 2019

Around two years old, your child may be ready to start brushing on their own. The transition is not always easy, but with these tips, your toddler will be brushing on their own in no time!

  • Show them how it’s done. Before handing over full responsibility, encourage your child to watch in the mirror as you brush their teeth. Briefly explain what you are doing to keep their attention.

  • Practice makes perfect! It can be helpful for your little one to practice brushing your teeth first. Not interested? Don’t be afraid to hold their hand and brush together the first couple of times.

  • Still not sure their teeth are getting completely clean? Offer to take turns brushing. Maybe they brush on their own in the morning and you brush for them at night. Give your child the ability to be autonomous while still getting a refresher each night of what brushing should look like.

  • Lead by example. Make brushing together a part of your morning and night routines. If they see you brushing, they will likely want to prove that they too are grown up and can brush their teeth.

  • Finally, make brushing fun! Oral hygiene should never be treated as a chore or a punishment. Have fun with it by playing music for two minutes instead of using a timer,  create a reward system for when your child brushes twice a day for a certain amount of time, or bring them shopping for a new toothbrush and toothpaste to make brushing more special.

With these tips, your toddler will be brushing on their own in no time. By instilling good oral hygiene habits now, you are ensuring a happier and healthier smile in their future.

Summer Treats for Healthy Teeth

July 1st, 2019

School’s out for the summer, and it’s great to have the kids home. After all, they deserve a break after all their hard work. And you want to keep their vacation happy, relaxing, and fun—without letting them spend those summer months cooling off with sugary treats. What are some of your options for healthy hot weather snacks?

  • Naturally Sweet Treats

Keep a supply of fresh fruit handy for summer snacking. Crispy fruits like apples and Bosc pears actually provide a little scrubbing action for the teeth with their vitamins, and softer fruits such as bananas, berries, and, of course, watermelon, provide natural sweetness along with vitamins and minerals. Yogurt has valuable calcium for strong teeth and the vitamin D our bodies need to use that calcium. Add some fresh fruit to Greek yogurt for added flavor and sweetness—and even more vitamins.

  • Savory Snacks

Cheese is a calcium-rich snack, and crunchy carrots and celery help scrub teeth while providing vitamins and minerals. Do a little mixing and matching by adding some cream cheese to that celery for extra flavor. Serve up hummus and pita chips or cheese with whole grain crackers. They’re great nutritious alternatives to chips and dip.

  • Blender Blast

Summer’s the perfect time to use your culinary creativity and expand your child’s palate with vitamin-rich smoothies. Toss your favorite fruits in the blender with a little juice, non-fat yogurt, milk, or honey, whirl away, and you have a delicious, healthy snack. You can add a few leafy greens for even more nutritional value. There are many easy recipes online for creating homemade smoothies that will please any picky palate.

  • Freezer Favorites

Ice cream is a favorite summer treat, but it can also provide quite a sugar punch. There are many homemade frozen yogurt recipes available online which combine frozen fruit, yogurt, and honey for your own summer celebration, without adding large amounts of sugar. Or choose to stock your freezer shelves with low-sugar fruit pops, store bought or homemade.

  • On Tap

A soda or a sports drink are often the go-to hydration choices in the summer. You might already be careful about handing these drinks out because they can have such a high sugar content. But they can also create a very acidic environment in the mouth, which is harmful to tooth enamel. Water is the safest, healthiest option for hydrating in hot weather, and can even provide some of the fluoride which helps keep enamel strong.

Whatever is on your child’s summer menu, keep up with all those great dental habits you’ve already established. A limited number of snacks—even healthy ones—is best, and be sure to brush after snacking, or rinse with water if brushing’s not an option. And don’t forget to maintain your child’s normal schedule of brushing and flossing, and regular visits to our office.

Have a great summer, and send your kids back to school rested, relaxed, and with a healthy, happy smile. Then take a moment, relax, and sip that smoothie—after all, you deserve a break after all your hard work!

Welcome to Our Blog

May 21st, 2019

Thank you for taking the time to visit our blog. Please check back often for weekly updates on fun and exciting events happening at our office, important and interesting information about the dental industry, and the latest news about our practice.

Feel free to leave a comment or question for our doctors and staff - we hope this will be a valuable resource for our patients, their families, and friends!