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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!